Two state senators have wasted no time in making marijuana legalization in Nebraska an issue for the November 2022 ballot. Part of their resolve comes from the fact that cannabis advocates came so close to getting a similar measure before voters in 2020.
They also feel emboldened by what happened in South Dakota. About 54% of the voters in South Dakota, which neighbors Nebraska to the north, approved making adult-use marijuana legal in the November election.
That’s a sign of what’s to come across the country, according to state Sen. Justin Wayne of Omaha. He told the Lincoln Star Journal, “If South Dakota approved it, why put off the inevitable?”
He wants to amend the state constitution to create marijuana legalization in Nebraska, a move that circumvents the governor’s office, now held by Republican Pete Ricketts. Governors cannot veto constitutional amendments in Nebraska.
The New Plan For Marijuana Legalization in Nebraska
The seeds of this big push for marijuana legalization in Nebraska were planted in the disappointment of what happened in 2020. During an election that saw legal adult-use marijuana become available for about a third of the country, Nebraska voters never even got a chance to vote on it.
For the 2020 election, proponents for marijuana legalization in Nebraska collected 182,000 voter signatures – 110% of what was needed – to get the issue of medical marijuana on the ballot. At the last minute, the state Supreme Court decided to strike it from the ballot over a technicality.
In the wake of disappointment, marijuana advocates in Nebraska have proven tenacious.
Wayne plans to take the issue directly to state lawmakers, and he’s asking for legalization of recreational use, not just medical use. He’s proposed a constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana cultivation, manufacture, distribution, consumption and sale starting on Oct. 1, 2023. He needs to get 30 votes in the Legislature to get the issue placed before voters in November 2022, according to the Journal Star.
Sen. Anna Wishart of Lincoln has joined Wayne in sponsorship of the bill. She’s been a leading advocate for cannabis legalization since taking office in 2017.
Medical Marijuana Proposal Also In the Works
In addition to co-sponsoring Wayne’s bill, Wishart also has filed separate legislation to make medical marijuana legal in Nebraska. Wishart is co-chair of the Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana organization.
She wrote on Twitter, “Every year we get stronger and we will not give up until Nebraskans can experience the freedoms of many fellow Americans and have safe and legal access to this plant-based medicine.”
Wayne said Nebraska can get ahead of the federal government, which he expects will legalize marijuana at some point. If Nebraska still has prohibitions against marijuana at that time, he said they may fall behind other Midwest states such as South Dakota and Oklahoma (which has legalized medical marijuana).
“We need to make sure Nebraska businesses can participate,” Wayne told the Journal Star. “We need Nebraska farmers to participate. We need Nebraska retailers to participate. We need Nebraska small businesses to participate.”