Top Nebraska official says medical cannabis makes ballot; court fight likely

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Nebraska voters will get the chance to decide whether to legalize the commercial cultivation and sale of medical marijuana in November, the state’s top election official announced, although his decision is certain to face an immediate court challenge.

Nebraska Secretary of State Bob Evnen confirmed Thursday that MJ advocates collected enough valid petition signatures to qualify the measure for the general-election ballot.

Evnen, a Republican, rejected a request by marijuana opponents to block the measure.

Evnen said opponents raised several valid points about problems with the ballot measure’s language, but he ultimately concluded that it met all the legal requirements necessary to go before voters.

“It was a close case,” he said in an interview.

Evnen said he’s certain that marijuana opponents will challenge his decision before the Nebraska Supreme Court.

The court will likely agree to hear the case quickly, because state law requires Evnen to finalize the ballot by Sept. 11.

Organizers of the ballot measure have said they’re highly confident it will survive a legal challenge and argue that medical marijuana has strong support in Nebraska.

But Mark Fahleson, a Lincoln attorney and former Nebraska Republican Party chairman, argued in a Wednesday letter to Evnen that the measure violates the state constitution.

Supporters of the citizen petition drive announced last month that they had gathered more than enough signatures to submit the issue to voters. They launched the campaign after Nebraska lawmakers repeatedly rejected measures to legalize MMJ.

The Nebraska ballot measure would guarantee a constitutional right to use and grow marijuana if a doctor recommends it with no restrictions on what diseases qualify.

It would only ban smoking cannabis in public places. If voters approve it in the 2020 general election, patients would be free to grow an “adequate” supply.

The marijuana measure is viewed as widely popular with Nebraska voters, but faces strong opposition from well-connected Republican leaders, including Gov. Pete Ricketts.

– Associated Press and Marijuana Business Daily