A marijuana lobbying group is trying to get a medical provision for use of the drug on the 2014 ballot in Nebraska.

NORML Nebraska — the state chapter of the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Law — is currently circulating a petition to put the initiative up for voter approval, said John Smith of McCook, the chapter’s executive director.

“It’s a proposed constitutional amendment, just allowing (medical) patients the access to possess, grow and distribute amongst other patients medical marijuana,” Smith said.

According to the petition, persons in Nebraska would have to have a doctor’s recommendation in order to legally possess medical marijuana.

Smith said the petition must have at least 125,000 signatures turned in to the state by July 1, and then the signatures would need to be verified and approved in order to put the initiative on the November ballot for voters to decide on.

“Not all of the signatures are turned in right now, but we’ve got about 175 circulators out there getting signatures right now, and we’ve probably got turned in somewhere between 3,000-4,000,” Smith said.

He said that if the signature requirement is met and the initiative is passed by voters, a constitutional amendment would go before the Nebraska Legislature. If that were to pass, lawmakers would then step in and set up guidelines and regulations, Smith said.

Smith said he believes there is a good chance that Nebraskans would vote for medical marijuana if it were to be put on the ballot.

“Nebraska’s definitely ready for it. When I’m out talking to people, about 78-80 percent of people are for (medical marijuana),” Smith said.

“I’ve actually looked at the science behind it. The areas that have medical marijuana, teen use is going down and the crime rate is going down. As far as the gateway theory, that’s been disproven by many scientists, over and over again, I think since about 1999,” Smith said.As far as voters who are concerned about marijuana becoming more accessible to minors, raising the crime rates or being a gateway drug, Smith said there is no reason to worry that a medical initiative would have any detrimental effects on Nebraskans.

While he was not able to provide information on any specific marijuana studies, Smith said that most Nebraskans are informed on the issue and encouraged voters to do research on their own.

“We’ve all got Internet, and the information is out there. There’s been thousands of scientific studies on the benefits of of medical marijuana. I don’t want people to take my word on it; I just want their curiosity to be sparked to research it on their own,” Smith said.

The ultimate end goal of NORML Nebraska, a non-profit organization, is not just legalizing marijuana for medical use, but also for recreational use for adults as well as legalizing the growth of industrial hemp.

Smith said he thinks making medical marijuana legal will be a step toward full legalization of marijuana.

“We want the freedom for adults to have the right to use cannabis if they choose. Just adults, just like alcohol,” Smith said.

* * *

Want to learn more? To read the petition, visit NORML Nebraska’s

   
   

website at www.normlne.org.

In other news

PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) — A fight is emerging over whether a son of Aretha Franklin could be put in charge of the late singer’s estate after a 2014 handwritten will was found under cushions in her suburban Detroit home.

HAMBURG, Iowa (AP) — Two new bridges are planned for a flood-prone highway low spot near a Missouri River bridge that connects southeast Nebraska with southwest Iowa, an Iowa highway official said.

VERDEL — Finding old U.S. flags inside the walls of a Verdel house that was being reconstructed — after suffering damage during the historic March flooding — came as a surprise to everyone involved.