The 2016 election is less than two months away from being wrapped up, which is not a lot of time. There are five states voting to legalize recreational marijuana in November – California, Arizona, Nevada, Massachusetts, and Maine. There are of course four states (Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska) that have already voted to legalize recreational marijuana (and DC!). A lot of efforts aimed specifically for the 2016 election cycle because it’s a Presidential election year, which usually bolsters the chances of marijuana reform initiatives due to higher voter turnout.
Some states weren’t able to make the deadlines in order to make the 2016 ballot, and have instead turned their focus towards 2018. One of those states is Nebraska. Nebraska is in the heart of America, and any reform there would be tremendously significant. There is currently not one, but two marijuana legalization efforts underway in Nebraska geared towards making the ballot in 2018. The first one was announced by Omaha NORML, and is a more broad legalization effort, but is still working on petition language last I heard. The second (Legal Marijuana Now Nebraska) which has been gathering signatures since August 5th, would remove any penalties for possessing up to an ounce of marijuana. Per Journal Star:
With 54 days left until this November’s election, a group pushing to eliminate Nebraska’s penalties for those caught with small amounts of pot has already begun gathering signatures to put the issue before voters in 2018.
A separate group seeking a broader constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana entirely has also filed 2018 petition language with the Nebraska Secretary of State’s Office.
That petition isn’t yet circulating, but volunteers started gathering signatures for the more limited proposal Aug. 5, targeting high-traffic areas and events such as last week’s Omaha rally by Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein.
Currently, possessing up to an ounce of marijuana in Nebraska is punishable by a $300 fine for the first offense. A second offense is a crime (misdemeanor) punishable by a $500 fine. Selling or manufacturing any amount of marijuana in Nebraska is a felony, punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a fine of $25,000. Possession of any amount of concentrates in Nebraska is a felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000 (per NORML).
A signature gathering effort in Nebraska would not be cheap. A statutory initiative requires over 80,000 valid signatures, and a constitutional initiative requires over 115,000 valid signatures. An expert in the Journal Star article I previously cited estimated a successful signature gathering effort costing as much as $600,000 because it’s nearly impossible to do via an all volunteer effort. I think that depending on how 2016 goes for reform efforts, Nebraska could get some national help if the initiative language is in place, with good polling to back it up, and a good grass roots team in place to help push the initiative effort hard at the local level.
image via Wikipedia