Nebraska Governor, SAM Declare War on Marijuana Legalization

Nebraska Governor, SAM Declare War on Marijuana Legalization

Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts of Nebraska is partnering with a local chapter of the nation’s leading marijuana prohibitionist group in ads that urge residents to oppose cannabis reform in the state.

Ricketts is featured in a 30-second spot paid for by SAM Nebraska, an affiliate of the nationally based Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM). The ad has been airing on local TV stations. 

In the spot, Ricketts argues that the only difference between “medical” and “recreational” marijuana is the terminology, that cannabis has no medical value whatsoever and that the industry is using the issue to ultimately pass adult-use legalization. These are all standard bullet points in the arguments against legalization SAM has been promoting for years.

The ad comes as pro-legalization advocates in the state are circulating a pair of medical cannabis reform initiatives they hope to put before voters next year. Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana has until July to collect 87,000 valid signatures to qualify each of the complementary measures.

“Doctors can’t prescribe it,” Ricketts said of marijuana in the ad, “and pharmacists can’t provide it because it’s not medicine.”

He warned that the marijuana industry has set its sights on Nebraska. “The real goal is the legalization of recreational marijuana across the state,” Ricketts said. “We’ve seen what happens when progressive politics trump science and common sense. That can’t happen. It’s up to us to protect our kids and defend our communities. Big Marijuana’s way is the wrong way for Nebraska.”

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SAM has been railing about “Big Marijuana” ever since legalization has taken hold among citizens and legislators around the country. Polls indicate strong bipartisan support for medical cannabis, and the governor’s talking points at least seem a bit more tempered than in May, when Ricketts called marijuana “a dangerous drug that will impact our kids” and said tersely “if you legalize marijuana, you’re gonna kill your kids.”

State Sen. Adam Morfeld (D), a co-chair of Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana (NMM), blasted Ricketts for “running $500,000 in anti-medical marijuana ads across the state,” tweeting that he supposes the governor is taking steps to make the 2022 election a referendum on marijuana.

Morfeld said money can’t change the fact that more than 70% of Nebraskans from across the political spectrum support the legalization of medical marijuana.

State Sen. Anna Wishart (D) is also co-chair of NMM. She told her followers to keep their chins up. “We will not stop our efforts until we have a safe, compassionate and common sense medical cannabis system in our state,” she said. “Now let’s go collect some signatures!”

SAM Executive Vice President Luke Niforatos confirmed the organization’s Nebraska affiliate is spending in the six figures for the ad campaign. And for what it’s worth, Nebraska’s attorney general Douglas Peterson argued in an opinion in 2019 that efforts to legalize medical marijuana legislatively in the state would be preempted by federal law and “would be, therefore, unconstitutional.”

This piece was originally published by Marijuana Moment and has been edited or modified by The News Station.

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