Even as historically conservative states have embraced legalization, reefer madness is alive and well in Nebraska.
At least with the state’s governor, Pete Ricketts, who on Tuesday once again sounded the alarm on something that a growing majority of the country is cool with.
“Well, we’ve certainly seen in other states like Colorado when you pass legalization of recreational, as well as medicinal, marijuana that you see an increase in traffic fatalities that are caused by marijuana use and an increase in a number of other things such as young people getting a hold of the marijuana,” Ricketts said, as quoted by Omaha-based television station KETV. “The marijuana has the opportunity to create psychosis in people and that could lead to a number of very bad outcomes as well, so those bad health effects happen when you legalize marijuana.”
Ricketts made the comments in response to last week’s election results in the Cornhusker State’s northern neighbor, South Dakota, where voters approved separate measures legalizing medical marijuana and recreational pot. The results mean that Nebraska will soon border two states where cannabis is legal for adults, with Colorado voters paving the way for an end to prohibition back in 2012.
For Ricketts, a Republican currently serving his second term as Nebraska’s governor, the comments are hardly a surprise. In August, ahead of his state’s expected vote on a medical marijuana measure, Ricketts was highly dismissive of cannabis as a treatment for patients.
“There is no such thing as medical marijuana,” Ricketts said at the time. “This is not something that should be prescribed by a doctor. It’s not something we distribute through a pharmacy, right? These are dispensaries that will be in your communities, and we have seen the effect in other states when they do this, people show up to work stoned, and that puts him at greater risk for accidents on the job.”
Ultimately, Nebraska voters were denied the opportunity to decide, after the state’s Supreme Court ruled in a split opinion in September that the ballot initiative was unconstitutional.
“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,” the court said in the ruling. “As proposed, [the Nebraska Medical Cannabis Constitutional Amendment] contains more than one subject—by our count, it contains at least eight subjects.”
The ruling was a blow for advocates, particularly given that it came after Nebraska’s secretary of state, Bob Evnen, said in August that backers of the initiative had rounded up enough verified signatures to qualify for the ballot. Following the Supreme Court’s decision, Carly Wolf, the state policies director for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), urged Nebraska legislators to take up the issue.
“It’s extremely disappointing that Nebraskans with debilitating conditions will continue to be denied access to a therapeutic treatment that could provide significant benefits,” Wolf said. “An overwhelming majority of Nebraskans support this policy change, which I hope will propel state lawmakers to take action next year and approve legislation to reform Nebraska’s outdated and unjust marijuana policies.”