Complaint filed against Nebraska Sheriff for blocking medical cannabis initiative
A group of activists has filed a complaint against a Nebraska sheriff who last year sued a medical marijuana initiative banned from the state vote because the legal fees paid for the lawsuit were an unlawful gift to the law enforcement officer. John Cartier, an attorney for the Nebraska Families for Medical Cannabis group, announced Monday that he has asked the state accountability and disclosure commission to consider whether the sheriff is required to disclose the source of funding under state law.
“In this case, the payment of Mr. Wagner’s legal fees is a gift that must be disclosed under Nebraska’s electoral law,” Cartier said in a statement.
Medical marijuana initiative from 2020 blocks ballot papers
In July 2020, supporters of the initiative, the Nebraska Medical Cannabis Constitutional Amendment (NMCCA), submitted more than 182,000 signatures to qualify the measure for state vote. The following month, Nebraska Secretary of State Bob Evnen noted that the initiative had received enough valid signatures and met legal requirements to appear on the ballot for last year’s general election.
However, Evnen’s decision was challenged by Sheriff Terry Wagner of Lancaster County, Nebraska, who filed a lawsuit to prevent the initiative from appearing on the ballot because it contained misleading language and required that initiatives focus on a single topic relate, unfulfilled.
The legal challenge was upheld by a 5-2 vote by the Nebraska Supreme Court, which ruled in September that the initiative’s provisions covering retail sales, home growing and other issues were insufficient with legalizing medical use related to cannabis. The court wrote in the split decision that the initiative violated the constitutional requirements that initiatives should be limited to a single issue and ordered the measure to be removed from the vote.
“If voters are to intelligently adopt a state policy on medical cannabis use, they must first be allowed to decide on this issue alone, without being burdened by other issues,” the court wrote in its conclusion. “As suggested, the NMCCA contains more than one subject – by our count it contains at least eight subjects.”
“We are overturning the Foreign Minister’s decision and issuing a Mandamus document instructing him to withhold the initiative from the November 2020 general election,” the statement said.
Nebraska Sheriff who doesn’t know who paid for the lawsuit
After the court’s decision, Wagner said that despite his name being mentioned as the plaintiff, he did not know the source of funding for the lawsuit.
“I don’t know,” said Wagner. “All I know is that no tax money was used in this lawsuit.”
The Nebraska Sheriff said he signed up as a plaintiff after Attorney Mark Fahleson “pointed out to me that the language of choice did not appear to meet the constitutional requirements for individual issues.” Fahleson has also refused to disclose who pays the legal fees, citing legal and client law.
Nebraska law requires elected officials to report any gift worth $ 100 or more in a declaration of interest that is filed annually with state election officials. Cartier alleged in his complaint that Wagner knowingly signed such a statement without properly disclosing the legal fees as a gift, which could be punished as a criminal offense under state law.
After Cartier announced on Monday that it had filed the complaint against Wagner with state officials, Trish Peterson, executive director of Nebraska Families for Medical Cannabis, said “hundreds of thousands” of people in the state are still upset about the lawsuit being filed Lawsuit has blocked initiative from the vote.
“We won’t rest until the sheriff has been given justice,” Peterson said. “Nobody is above the law, not even him.”