LINCOLN, Neb. – Today, the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals took action on a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Nebraska on behalf of Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana (NMM).
The court issued a stay on a federal judge’s preliminary injunction, effectively overturning it by allowing enforcement of a ballot qualification requirement that the groups are challenging.
The rule - a provision of the state constitution - requires people seeking to change the law or amend the state constitution to collect signatures from 5% of registered voters in 38 counties to qualify for a statewide ballot. The ACLU of Nebraska and NMM say the requirement violates the one person, one vote principle by giving unequal power to signatures based on geography.
The decision means the multicounty distribution requirement will remain in place while litigation continues, pending a final decision. If the groups are successful in their case, it is possible that campaigns could still qualify for the November ballot so long as they collected enough total signatures, even if they did not meet the multicounty distribution requirement.
Crista Eggers, plaintiff and statewide campaign coordinator for NMM, issued the following statement in response to today’s order.
“Every Nebraskan’s signature should have equal weight, no matter the size of our community. Today’s decision is disappointing. From our perspective, this stay adds unnecessary confusion at a critical juncture. We will keep moving forward so that we can legalize medical cannabis and help suffering Nebraskans. If you have not yet signed the petition, I cannot stress this enough: now is the time.”
Jane Seu, an ACLU of Nebraska attorney, issued the following statement in response to today’s order.
“Today’s decision is a setback but not the end of our case. We were very encouraged by the earlier ruling in this case and we continue to feel confident. At every turn, state officials have tried to maintain the unconstitutional multicounty distribution requirement, but the constitutional standards clearly favor our clients. We are ready for whatever comes next and we will continue making our case until we can earn a permanent victory.”
Litigation will continue as the groups seek a permanent injunction overturning the provision.
NMM continues to collect signatures for two complementary petitions in communities across the state. The campaign needs to collect roughly 87,000 signatures per petition by July 7. To follow the progress of the campaign, go to nebraskamarijuana.org.