Cannabis activists in Nebraska just submitted 15,000 signatures on a petition to create a new political party committed to weed reform.
Mark Elworth Jr. has been working to bring the “Legal Marijuana Now Party” to Nebraska for six years. Elworth submitted a similar petition in 2016, but ended up not having enough valid signatures to succeed. This year, activists collected 15,000 signatures, more than double the 6,800 signatures needed to qualify, which should be enough to ensure that the party is approved.
The Legal Marijuana Now Party was originally established in Minnesota in the late 1990s and became a ballot-qualified political party in that state last year. This official designation allows the party to coordinate petitions to place pro-cannabis candidates on Minnesota election ballots. Iowa also has its own chapter of the party, which has been on and off the ballot over the past several election cycles.
Elworth told the Lincoln Journal Star that the party is “focusing right now on the legalization of medical marijuana and have been in all 50 states.”
The fight for medical cannabis is a serious issue for Nebraska, where conservative politicians have managed to shut down every effort to legalize medical pot. After several legalization bills failed in the state legislature, activists managed to get a medical marijuana initiative approved for this year's election ballot. But a local sheriff filed a legal challenge arguing that the ballot measure covered too many topics, and the state Supreme Court ultimately agreed to kill the measure.
Although Elworth has likely collected enough signatures to get the Legal Marijuana Now Party approved, he submitted the petition too late to qualify for this year. State election officials have promised that the party will be recognized for the 2022 primary election if enough of the signatures are valid, however.
Because the petition was filed too late, the party will not be able to suggest candidates for the 2020 election. But Elworth believes that the creation of the party will also help convince cannabis advocates not to give up on Nebraska. The activist said that he’s seen many young people posting on social media about how they are thinking about moving out of Nebraska because they are disgusted by the state's conservative politicians.
"We need to stop that,” Elworth told the Journal Star. “We need to put up a fight. We can't let our people go. We want to give people hope. They think that this is hopeless."
Elworth explained that the party's end goal is to ensure that Nebraskan cannabis users can have their say in state politics. "We're marijuana smokers,” he said. “You can imagine what we're about. We're really about the lifestyle. Not just marijuana. We're a whole culture that is not represented, really, by anybody."