Lincoln

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Nebraska: Marijuana Groups Already Petitioning For 2018 Ballot

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

With 54 days left until November's election, a group of marijuana advocates pushing to eliminate Nebraska's penalties for those caught with small amounts of pot has already begun gathering signatures to put the issue before voters in 2018.

A second group seeking a broader constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana entirely has also filed 2018 petition language with the Nebraska Secretary of State's Office.

Volunteers started gathering signatures for the more limited proposal Aug. 5, targeting high-traffic areas and events such as last week's Omaha rally by Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein.

"We're in Lincoln three times a week," said Mark Elworth Jr., a perennial candidate for elected office from Omaha who drew up the petition language and is leading the campaign.

Nebraska decriminalized marijuana in the 70s, but anyone caught with an ounce or less is still subject to a fine.

Elworth said the most significant consequence for people who are caught with pot, particularly teenagers, is the permanent record it creates.

"We're trying to protect people," he said. "Those minor possession tickets ... they can ruin people's lives."

Nebraska: UNL Still Waiting For Hemp Seeds

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Nebraska researchers were recently issued a permit by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency to do hemp research. The University of Nebraska Lincoln's Department of Agronomy and Horticulture is ready to grow -- they just need the seeds.

Once the DEA signs off on the paperwork, seeds should be imported from the Parkland Industrial Hemp Growers Cooperative based in the Canadian town of Dauphin, Manitoba.

It will take about three weeks or so to get the seeds, said Héctor L. Santiago, assistant dean of the Agronomy Department’s Agricultural Research Division.

Hemp is marijuana’s nonpsychoactive cousin; it lacks the chemical that gets people high: tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). State and federal rules require that seeds used by researchers are certified to produce plants with a THC content lower than 0.03 percent.

UNL Professor Ismail Dweikat hopes to get plants in the ground this year. If seeds don’t arrive before June 15, he plans to grow them in a greenhouse.

A wide variety of hemp products have been gaining popularity in the United States in recent years, ranging from food and clothing to neurological medication and fiber-reinforced polymers. Industry estimates report annual hemp product sales were more than $580 million last year, according to a 2015 Congressional Research Service report.

Nebraska: Medical Marijuana Petition Effort Delayed

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Nebraska groups seeking to get a medical marijuana question on the ballot in the state have decided to delay a petition drive because of the time and expense required.

Shelly Gillen, a medical marijuana advocate whose son Will might find help from the drug for his epileptic seizures, told the Lincoln Journal Star that backers are aiming now for a petition drive to force a 2018 vote.

“We just can’t count on the Legislature,” she said. “We’ve been doing this since Will was 11. He’s now 14. So we’ve been through it three legislative sessions.”

The governor and attorney general led in opposing a bill to allow medical marijuana that failed this spring.

State Sen. Tommy Garrett of Bellevue sponsored the bill. He estimates it would have cost $700,000 to nearly $1 million to pay for the petition drive and advertising.

“It required so darn much money to get something on the ballot,” he said. “I really thought we had a great chance of getting it passed.” He said he will continue trying to pass a bill if he is re-elected.

“It’s going to be an uphill struggle,” Garrett said. “We’ve got a whole bunch of new senators that we’re going to have to convince.”

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