FREMONT – Mark Jensen is a Fremont city councilman, a position he was just elected to last November. He’s also a vocal proponent of medical marijuana, and you’ll probably see him collecting signatures throughout Dodge county as he – and many others – attempt to place legalization for medical purposes on Nebraska’s 2020 ballot.
State Senator Anna Wishart of Lincoln attempted to pass a pared-down medical legalization in the most recent unicameral session, with backing from several other senators. The bill, LB110, was filibustered before it could go to a vote, and the session ended without progress. Now, a petition drive will have to be held to get the issue into the hands of voters in the 2020 general election.
Proponents will have to gather enough signatures to total 10% of Nebraska’s registered voters – that could be as many as 130,000 statewide, and that’s where Mark Jensen has stepped up to help. “Senator Wishart had tried to sponsor this through the legislature,” Jensen said, “but there is opposition in the legislature – our governor being one of them. To wait for a change of power… it’s just too important to too many people who need this kind of medication.”
This ballot initiative, Jensen wants to remind everyone, is about medicine. “This has nothing to do with recreational. Those are two totally separate issues,” he specified. Medical marijuana is used in 33 states for ailments like Multiple Sclerosis, HIV, depression, anxiety, chronic and acute pain, epileptic seizures, nausea/vomiting, sleep disorders, PTSD, brain injuries, inflammatory disorders and even some of the severest cases of autism.
“Medical marijuana has to be legally prescribed by a doctor or a nurse practitioner,” Jensen explained, meaning that the scary stories of “potheads making up diseases,” are just that – scare tactics from opponents.
Legalizing usage of medical marijuana will also legalize the farming of the crop – and even make it legal for those who are over 18 and who are properly diagnosed and authorized to grow their own medicine. “People under 18 with a prescription would still be able to use the cannabis products with permission of their adult guardians,” Jensen explains, but wouldn’t have the option to grow.
That’s all down the line. The first hurdle is to get the signatures of nearly 130,000 registered voters who want the opportunity to vote on the initiative. Those who sign the signature drive aren’t necessarily saying they want medical marijuana – only that they think voters should have the right to vote on the issue. Signatures must be collected and certified as valid by June 2020 in order to make it on the November 2020 ballot.
The second hurdle is to make sure that those signatures come from all over Nebraska. “You can’t just go into large population areas and gather what you need,” Jensen said. “There has to be a minimum participation involving all or most of the counties.” That means that proponents can’t just go into Omaha or Lincoln – people are needed in every city and county to gather signatures.
Jensen and other people in Fremont will be gathering signatures throughout the city. You can find a signing event, or volunteer to help out, by visiting Nebraskans for Sensible Marijuana Laws at nebraskamarijuana.org.
You can hear the full interview with Mark Jensen on our Podcast page.