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The Antelope

Taking marijuana debate to voters

The Antelope Newspaper

Marijuana legalization gets two chances in Nebraska: legislative bill, ballot initiative 


What was once a fringe idea of marijuana legalization only ten years ago has become a very common issue to be argued by citizens and politicians on an almost daily basis. What started with our neighbors to the east has caused other states, especially more conservative ones than Colorado and Washington, to decide how the state is going to handle the legalization of marijuana.

A poll conducted five months ago by Gallop shows that almost two-thirds, or sixty-six percent, of Americans were in favor of legalization. The same poll showed the largest increase was in Americans older than 55 years old, with fifty-nine percent support. The poll does not include the distinction for legalization for medicinal or recreational use.

This shows that it is an issue that is not strictly following generational trends, but as an issue that many feel strongly about. There may be differences chiefly among income groups, education level or political leanings, but this cannot be chalked up to another thing the Millennials are ‘ruining’.

This cannot be chalked up to another thing the millenials are ‘ruining.’

Now, for the second time in four years, Nebraska is having avenues open for the chance to decide what to do about this drug.

In the Unicameral, two senators have put forth bill 110, the Adoption of Medical Marijuana Act, which would allow Nebraskans to be prescribed medicinal marijuana or byproducts of the drug to treat ailments that cause a significant amount of pain and suffering. The bill lists nineteen specific issues that would justify the prescription of cannabis, though there is the twentieth of leaving it to the judgment of the physician 

Even were it to pass the legislature, it has been said that Governor Ricketts would veto the bill. Unsurprisingly, Ricketts has mobilized some high named supporters to warn about what he perceives as a danger to society. Chief among them are the state’s attorney general Doug Peterson and the high priest of football Tom Osborne. 

The bill is moving slowly through the proper committees, and the previous time it was attempted in 2016 the bill died in a filibuster three votes short. While it is possible with the changing winds on the subject of legalization, I am not entirely confident such a measure will pass.

Knowing this, the senators have also filed out the paperwork to make the medicinal legalization a voter issue that would be placed on the ballot in 2020 where the voters would determine if it was to be a law or a change to the state’s constitution. 

While I feel that this is perhaps the best way to deal with an issue as far reaching as drug laws, there are some concerns. To be placed on the ballot, ten percent of registered voters in the state have to sign the petition and submit it by a certain date. This means that while there may be broad support, those supporters have to mobilize themselves and others.

The primary trouble with voter initiative is that while the government does have to respect the will of the voters, it is up to them to see how it will be implemented and at what cost. 

Back in 2018, Nebraska pushed forward with a Medicare expansion that won handedly in the larger cities than the rural areas. However, since Nebraska has a balanced budget amendment, the only way to fund such an expansion can come from one of two ways; raising taxes or cutting funds.

Guess which one Ricketts went with and where those funds are coming from. Here is a hint, as a future educator, I will probably see a significant decrease in public education funding in the near future.

If the bill to legalize pot is passed, I have no doubt that the current administration for our state would try to do the same thing even if the measure is passed by a significant margin. So while such an issue may be important to many, there is very little doubt that Ricketts will attempt to subvert the will of the people should the initiative pass.

Proving once again that regional politics have a greater impact on our daily lives than national politics, the rising issue of legalization comes to the front with a bill proposed in the legislature and at least one ballot initiative. If you feel strongly about this issue, one way or the other, be an active citizen and make your opinions heard. 

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