By Hunter Dublin | June 14, 2022
Supporters of medicinal marijuana as a ballot initiative recently won a significant win in federal court, which might help them get the subject on the November ballot.
A federal judge granted their preliminary injunction motion, preventing the Secretary of State from requiring petitions to include signatures from 5% of registered voters in each of the 38 counties.
"A county number has impacted where I put my resources and volunteers," said Crista Eggers, campaign manager for Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana.
According to Eggers, the county requirement has been complex. But, for the time being, it makes little difference where the signatures come from in Nebraska.
"This allows me to go around and gather signatures from all Nebraskans," Eggers explained.
Eggers has long been a supporter of medical marijuana. She feels it might benefit her son Colton, who suffers from epilepsy.
The ACLU and Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana filed a lawsuit against the state, claiming that the restriction violates the "one person, one vote" principle. According to their hypothesis, it provides fewer registered voters in a poorly populated county with more influence than registered voters in a more populous county.
Federal courts have applied similar rules in other states, including Idaho and Illinois.
District Judge John Gerrard wrote in his ruling granting the preliminary injunction, "the State of Nebraska is absolutely free to require a showing of statewide support for a ballot initiative—but it may not do so based on units of dramatically different population, resulting in voter discrimination."
Gerrard criticized Nebraska Secretary of State Bob Evnen and Attorney General Doug Peterson's arguments for keeping the regulation in place. Both Republicans, Evnen and Peterson, contended that if the county portion of the ballot initiative requirement was illegal, the entire ballot initiative process would collapse.
"It raises eyebrows for the State to claim that the baby must be thrown out with the bathwater," Gerrard wrote.
"I concur with the decision to promptly appeal the District Court's opinion, which nullifies a Nebraska State Constitutional clause involving initiative petitions," Evnen said in response to the judgment on Monday night.
The Nebraska ACLU said it will continue to battle to keep the bill off the books.
"We'll just have to wait and see what Secretary Evnen does, and we'll be ready to respond," said Daniel Gutman of the ACLU of Nebraska.
Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana have until July 7 to collect the remaining signatures, which Eggers thinks is much more feasible in light of Monday's decision.