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Fremont City Councilmember Mark Jensen is leading the charge locally to put medical marijuana legalization on the ballot before Nebraska voters in 2020.

Jensen has begun circulating petitions in Dodge County for the statewide “Nebraskans for Sensible Marijuana Laws” constitutional ballot initiative.

Jensen said his involvement with the petition is not related to his position on the Fremont City Council.

“This has absolutely nothing to do with my position with the city; This is me personally acting on my own as a private citizen,” he said.

Nebraskans for Sensible Marijuana Laws is a political committee supporting a 2020 constitutional ballot measure to legalize the medical use of marijuana.

The amendment would establish the right of patients with serious health conditions to use medical cannabis as recommended by their physician. It also authorizes the creation of a regulated system for producers, testing laboratories, and dispensaries to enable safe access to medical cannabis products.

State Sens. Anna Wishart and Adam Morfeld filed the constitutional ballot initiative on behalf of Nebraskans for Sensible Marijuana Laws earlier this year, after a bill seeking medical marijuana legalization (LB110) introduced by Wishart and co-sponsored by Morfeld stalled in the State Legislature in May.

“We have evidence showing that it helps, so to deny people access to that to me is tragic,” Wishart said at the time.

Jensen said his support for the ballot initiative follows along the same lines as views expressed by Wishart.

“It’s a safer treatment for chronic pain for some people,” he said. “Nobody has ever died from a marijuana overdose and you can’t say the same for opioids.”

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While some opponents of medical marijuana legalization in the state, including Gov. Peter Ricketts and Attorney General Doug Peterson, have expressed concern that legalizing medical marijuana would lead to the legalization of recreational marijuana, Wishart has said that a lot of states have passed medical marijuana laws and kept it at that.

In total 33 states have legalized medical marijuana, while recreational marijuana is legal in 11 states.

“Regardless of how anybody feels about the recreational (legalization), to not be looking at this medicinally is irresponsible in my opinion,” Jensen said.

The ballot initiative group needs to collect roughly 130,000 signatures to get the constitutional amendment onto the November 2020 general election ballot.

According to information released by Nebraskans for Sensible Marijuana Laws, the group is already closing in on 10,000 signatures with more than a year left before its July 2020 submission deadline.

Jensen says he’s already collected more than 50 signatures in Dodge County in the short time he has been petitioning, and that signers have come from all walks of life.

“The youngest person to sign so far is 21 and the oldest is 81,” he said.

The petition process is broken down county by county, so local signers must be registered to vote in Dodge County for their signatures to be considered valid on the petition.

More information about the petition, and the full ballot initiative text, can be found on the Nebraskans for Sensible Marijuana Laws website at www.nebraskamarijuana.org.

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