Michigan, Missouri and Utah did it this year. 

Michigan voters legalized recreational use of marijuana; Missouri and Utah approved medical marijuana laws. 

Now two state senators from Lincoln — Anna Wishart and Adam Morfeld — are taking another step toward legalizing medical cannabis and possibly other reforms with a campaign committee aimed at allowing voters to place a medical marijuana legalization measure on the 2020 ballot.

The campaign committee, Nebraskans for Sensible Marijuana Laws, will seek a constitutional amendment to give Nebraskans the right to use marijuana for medical purposes. The group has received backing from the Marijuana Policy Project, a leading national group that has helped lead successful marijuana-related ballot measures in Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada and Utah. 

Wishart is going to give the Legislature another chance to pass a medical cannabis law by introducing a bill in January, similar to but not exactly like the one (LB622) she introduced two sessions ago. 

While such a bill might have a better chance next year, there is a question that like the last one, it wouldn't survive a filibuster. 

If not ... "It will absolutely be on the ballot in 2020," Wishart said. 

Morfeld said if a constitutional amendment would pass, it would be up to the Legislature to decide how to regulate that right without infringing upon it, similar to the Second Amendment. 

"The Legislature has had multiple opportunities for input in the issue," he said. "And they will have another in 2019 with Sen. Wishart's legislation."

Wishart said the campaign committee will expand the discussion for the constitutional amendment and get feedback from Nebraskans on other areas, such as decriminalization. 

"But, again, the priority is medical and the key is that we are going to put something on the ballot that has wide support by Nebraskans," she said. 

A number of shops and vendors are selling cannabidiol oil, also known as CBD oil, in the state, derived from the hemp plant, a cousin to the marijuana plant. Sellers play up the medical benefits of that oil, that has only a tiny percentage of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main intoxicating chemical compound found in marijuana plants.

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Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson has issued two memorandums to law enforcement saying it remains illegal to possess, manufacture, distribute or dispense CBD oil.

Wishart says the group is assembling a steering committee to represent different stakeholders in Nebraska who will help with the campaign.

Morfeld played a major role in this year's successful initiative ballot campaign to expand Medicaid.

"It's exciting to have him on the team and his experience and his energy, obviously," Wishart said. 

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Matthew Schweich, deputy director for the Marijuana Policy Project, a leading national marijuana reform organization, has helped lead five successful marijuana-related ballot initiatives over the past two election cycles. 

He will make the difference in getting the medical marijuana ballot issue across the finish line in Nebraska, Wishart said.  

Marijuana is legal in one way or another in 33 states, with recreational pot use approved in 10 states, along with Washington, D.C. Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, where it’s still classified as a controlled substance.

It's a "very popular" issue in Nebraska, Wishart said. Feedback on Thursday, when the campaign committee was rolled out, showed Nebraskans are ready. 

"Facebook, calls, emails. People are so excited. And especially those that have been at the forefront of this issue," she said. "You'd be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn't know another person who benefits from marijuana medicinally."

Nebraskans for Sensible Marijuana Laws also includes three other people from Lincoln: Elizabeth Seacrest, campaign treasurer and a registered nonpartisan; Dexter Schrodt, committee member and registered Republican; and John Cartier, committee member and registered Democrat. 

"This is the group that's going to be driving the campaign and then the steering committees are going to be the groups (of) constituents who are going to be affected by this," Wishart said. 

The Facebook page for the group is facebook.com/NebraskaMJ

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7228 or jyoung@journalstar.com

On Twitter @LJSLegislature.


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