NE petitions requirement to remain despite marijuana advocates’ lawsuit

A circuit court in Nebraska reversed a lower court’s decision to remove a requirement that ballot initiatives receive support from 5% of voters in 38 of the state’s 93 counties.

Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana tried to get the requirement removed, arguing it violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment because it weakened the voting power of those in the state’s counties with the most people, according to the Lincoln Journal Star.

The requirement is partly responsible for keeping two medical marijuana initiatives from going before Nebraska voters in November.

The lawsuit, filed by the ACLU of Nebraska, said one person in a relatively unpopulated county had the same voting power as roughly 1,000 residents of Douglas County in terms of qualifying petitions for the ballot. Nebraska’s largest city, Omaha, is in Douglas County.

Two of the three judges disagreed, saying the Equal Protection Clause was not applicable to rights granted by states.

Neither of the two MMJ legalization petitions circulated by Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana – one would protect doctors who recommend medical cannabis and patients; the other would protect MMJ suppliers and distributors – met the total number of signatures needed to qualify for the ballot.

Last week, Secretary of State Bob Evnen said the two petitions did not have signatures from the required number of counties under the state constitution, but he agreed to review the petitions circulated.