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NE Supreme Court: Gambling Initiatives Added, Medical Marijuana Removed from Nov. Ballot

In decisions issued today, the Nebraska Supreme Court ordered that three gambling initiatives be placed on the November general election ballot, and that a medical cannabis initiative be withheld from the ballot.

According to statute, the statewide ballot for the November 3 general election must be certified no later than tomorrow, Friday, September 11. Secretary of State Bob Evnen announced that the certified ballot will contain three gambling initiatives and will not contain the medical cannabis initiative, in accordance with the Supreme Court’s decisions.

Evnen said, “The Secretary of State is required by statute to issue determinations as to whether initiative petitions are legally sufficient. I did my best to make those determinations on a timely basis in accordance with law. Today the Supreme Court issued its decisions concerning these petitions. I respect the rule of law and I will certify the ballot in compliance with the Court’s orders.”

The majority of the Court agreed with Lynne McNally and Keep the Money in Nebraska’s assertion that the Secretary of State incorrectly applied the single subject rule by considering all three initiatives (Constitutional, Regulatory and Tax) together, even though voters will vote on each separately, that each violated the single-subject rule by themselves, and that adoption of the Regulatory Initiative and the Tax Initiative without the simultaneous adoption of the Constitutional Initiative would be an “idle act.”

Evnen added, “I note that the Court split 4 to 3 in ordering the placement of the gambling initiatives on the ballot. I appreciate the Court’s consideration of my positions on these matters.”

In the ruling on the case filed to force withholding of the medical marijuana initiative from the ballot, the high court wrote in it’s conclusion that “(A)s proposed, the NMCCA contains more than one subject–by our count, it contains at least eight subjects. In addition to enshrining in our constitution a right of certain persons to produce and medicinally use cannabis under subsections (1) and (2), in subsections (3) and (4), the NMCCA would enshrine a right and immunity for entities to grow and sell cannabis; and in subsections (6), (7), and (8), it would regulate the role of cannabis in at least six areas of public life. These secondary purposes are not naturally and necessarily connected to the NMCCA’s primary purpose. As such, they constitute logrolling.

If voters are to intelligently adopt a State policy with regard to medicinal cannabis use, they must first be allowed to decide that issue alone, unencumbered by other subjects.”

Supporters and opponents presented arguments before the Nebraska Supreme court last week over three sets of ballot initiatives, involving gambling, medical cannabis and payday lending. After careful review in August, Evnen announced that he would withhold all three gambling initiatives and place the medical cannabis on the ballot unless the Supreme Court ordered otherwise.

In his written determinations about the gambling and medical cannabis initiatives, Evnen wrote, “The Constitutional right to bring forward initiative petitions for a vote of the people is fundamental to our state governance and is to be zealously protected.”  The initiative process protects the right of Nebraska voters to change their state constitution and statutes.

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