Cannabis legalization efforts persist with deadlines days away

cannabis legalization efforts

With widespread cannabis legalization in the U.S., some may be confused as to where weed remains off the menu. In fact, there are a few states where possessing, growing, and consuming cannabis is illegal for everyone–medical or recreational. Advocates in these locations are making an effort to bring the decision to voters, and they’re reaching the final stretch.

Floridians are all set to vote on adult-use cannabis legalization in November through Florida Amendment 3. Meanwhile, some states are still working for their place on the ballot. With as little as six days left for some, time is of the essence in these cannabis legalization efforts.

Nebraskans push for medical cannabis

Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana (NMM) is a registered ballot committee collecting signatures in a third push for pot.

“NMM is currently collecting signatures to place two initiatives on the November ballot dealing with medical cannabis access,” NMM campaign manager Crista Eggers explained to GreenState. “Our grassroots campaign has collected over 40,000 signatures on each of our two petitions.”

Similar efforts were halted by inclement circumstances both in 2020 and 2022. In 2020, NMM collected enough signatures, but the state’s Supreme Court declared the amendment unconstitutional.

Legislators argued that the amendment violated the “single subject rule,” which bars initiatives from lumping multiple issues into a “yes” or “no” question for voters. Then, in 2022, a major donor unexpectedly passed away during the election cycle, hindering signature collection efforts.

This year, NMM is back in full force. The group must collect signatures from seven percent of the population, and garner support from five percent of at least 38 of 93 Nebraska counties. They currently consider 24 counties “soft qualified,” and expect 15 more checked off by May.

There’s momentum this year, signaling Nebraskans may be on board for medical marijuana.
“Compared to our previous campaigns in 2020 and 2022, we are much farther ahead in our progress, and this is largely due to the support amongst Nebraskans statewide to see this on the ballot,” Eggers shared.

Signatures must be submitted four months before the election in Nebraska, and NMM is almost halfway there with just over three months to go. Meanwhile, in Idaho, voters face unique issues compounded by a quicker due date.

Kind Idaho has a few days left

Idaho has less time to collect enough signatures to bring The Idaho Medical Marijuana Act to voters in November, six days, to be exact. William Beukelman, a representative for the advocacy group, shared with GreenState that the signature count wasn’t on track as of January.

“The rate of signatures gathered versus accepted by the state has been fairly low recently, most likely due to Idaho’s new voter address requirements, which purged a lot from the voter roll without them knowing,” Beukelman wrote in an email.

People move, pass away, and become ineligible to vote for additional reasons every day. Voter registration lists are purged of those who haven’t voted in a while to keep polling numbers accurate, deter fraud, and other reasons. Idaho purges inactive voters every four years, with the last taking place in 2023.

Beukelman revealed that the state had rejected many Kind Idaho petition signatures, signing voters were unaware that their registration had been purged. This issue may come to a head in multiple states come election day since a handful of new voter purging legislation has passed since 2020.

The organization has yet to respond to the request for an update on its efforts. But with less than a week to go, it’s surely all hands on deck collecting signatures. While everyone awaits news from Kind Idaho, American voters in every state should check if they are still registered before voting day.

South Dakota rides again

South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws (SDBML) is the political organization behind both pushes for legal pot in the state, and they are back at it this year. The group must collect just under 18,000 signatures before the May 7th deadline.

“We passed Amendment A in a presidential election with a very large turnout, and I feel like that represented the will of the people,” SDBML campaign chair Matthew Schweich said to Kelo. “It was overturned on a technicality.”

South Dakota voters said yes to Constitutional Amendment A and Measure 26 in 2020, effectively legalizing medical and adult-use cannabis. Medical shops opened in July 2022, and the market is currently providing patients with qualifying conditions with cannabis. However, adult-use legalization has taken a different path.

Gov. Kristi Noem’s administration pushed back on Amendment A, citing similar single-issue requirements that halted Nebraska’s 2020 medical legalization measure. The SD Supreme Court struck down Amendment A despite 54 percent voter support. This disapproval carried over into 2022, when voters turned down recreational weed, with almost 53 percent voting against Measure 27.

Despite pushback from the Governor and 2022 voters, South Dakotan advocates remain steadfast in giving weed another shot on the ballot this year.

“We felt it was necessary to restore the will of the people right away,” Schweich concluded.

Cannabis legalization efforts persist

Polls and data signal continued growth in the acceptance and use of cannabis among those in the U.S. As of now, half of Americans have tried cannabis, according to Gallup, and they believe the plant is safer than tobacco, alcohol, and opioids. The majority of people in the States are behind legalizing weed, but some strongholds remain.

While Idaho and Nebraska make their last pushes to bring medical cannabis to a vote, South Dakotans bank on more weed-friendly voters showing up for the presidential election. States like New York and Ohio are sussing through adult-use programs, and Alabama courts continue floundering medical pot regulations while these advocates are still fighting for a seat at the table.

Cara Wietstock is senior content producer of and has been working in the cannabis space since 2011. She has covered the cannabis business beat for Ganjapreneur and The Spokesman Review. You can find her living in Bellingham, Washington with her husband, son, and a small zoo of pets.