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Medical marijuana supporters need 30,000 more signatures by July 3, backers say.

LINCOLN – Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana indicated Thursday that there is an “urgent need” to collect 30,000 signatures in the remaining 27 days of the 2024 petition campaign season.

By July 3, the initiative group that wants Nebraskans to vote in November on whether medical cannabis should be legalized and regulated must submit signatures from at least 7% of registered voters. Those signatures must also come from at least 5% of voters in 38 of Nebraska’s 93 counties, a threshold the campaign said it reached last month.

“There is no doubt that Nebraskans want to see this on the ballot, so we need them to step up and help make that happen,” said Crista Eggers, NMM campaign manager. “My personal question, not as a campaign leader, but as a mother, is that people would react as if their child’s life depended on it and start signing; because for many of us, our child’s life truly depends on it.”

On Thursday, the campaign said it had collected 65,000 signatures and is “undoubtedly” further ahead than in two previous attempts. It is estimated that another 30,000 signatures will exceed the signature requirement in case one is rejected.

Third attempt

This is the third attempt for the cannabis campaign after the Nebraska Supreme Court blocked the statewide ballot measure in 2020 and failed to collect the necessary signatures in 2022.

About 87,000 signatures would need to be verified by the Nebraska Secretary of State’s office, along with the multi-county requirement, to qualify for the November ballot.

There are several other initiatives in play in 2024 that are approaching the July deadline, including:

  • “EPIC Option” – constitutional amendments to eliminate all taxes (such as property, income, sales and inheritance taxes), except retail consumption taxes or excise taxes and exempt groceries purchased for off-premises consumption.
  • Paid Sick Leave – legislation requiring employers to provide their employees with the right to earn paid sick leave for personal or family health needs, up to 40 hours per year for employers with fewer than 20 employees and 56 hours per year for businesses with 20 or more employees.
  • Abortion – three constitutional amendments that seek to protect or ban abortion at different levels of pregnancy.

The abortion-related constitutional amendments come from:

  • “Protect our rights” to protect abortion until fetal viability as determined by a medical professional (approximately 22 to 24 weeks).
  • “Protect Women and Children” to ban abortions after the first trimester, similar to current state law (about 13 weeks), except for medical emergencies or in cases of sexual assault or incest. The measure would also allow the Legislature to further restrict abortion in the future.
  • ‘Choose Life Now’ to define a ‘preborn child at any stage of development’ as a person, banning most abortions.

Should multiple abortion initiatives qualify for November, and voters were to approve more than one, the initiative with the most votes would become law.

Signature requirements vary

All initiative petitions require signatures from at least 5% of voters in 38 of Nebraska’s 93 counties. Those calling for legislative action require mass signatures from 7% of voters, while constitutional amendments require signatures from 10% of registered voters to qualify.

There is also a separate referendum underway, on Bill 1402, which aims to provide $10 million to the Secretary of State’s Office for families to attend private schools. It follows a different requirement and timeline. Supporters would need valid signatures from 5% of registered voters by mid-July (90 days after the Legislature adjourned in April), in addition to the provincial requirement.

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