New polling found that 70% of respondents are ready to legalize medical marijuana in Nebraska and that a majority of those responding want to approve a novel alternative to property, sales and income taxes.

The poll, conducted for Neilan Strategy Group, mirrors polling done by a group seeking to place the medical cannabis issue on the 2024 ballot. The Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana said their polling in 2022 showed that 80% of registered voters were in favor of legalization.

“Nebraskans are clearly ready to legalize medical marijuana,” said Perre Neilan of Neilan Strategy Group.

Crista Eggers of Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana said Monday that she’s not surprised “whatsoever” by the poll results in that it mirrors what they’ve seen in recent years.

“Nebraskans are obviously ready to legalize medicinal cannabis,” she said.

This year marks the third time the medical marijuana group has tried to get the issue before voters, after failing to find favor with the issue in the Nebraska Legislature.

In 2020, the group collected more than enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, but the Nebraska Supreme Court disqualified it, ruling that the initiative language violated the constitutional requirement that such matters contain only a single subject.

Two years ago, Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana fell short of gathering the necessary signatures after a major financial backer of the petition drive died. This year, the group is circulating two petitions.

To qualify for the ballot, an initiative seeking a law change must gather the signatures of about 86,000 registered voters and get signers from at least 5% of voters from 38 of state’s 93 counties.

Eggers said that as of Monday, her organization had gathered more than 32,000 signatures and believes it has already qualified in 24 counties, which is “much farther ahead” than in 2020 or 2022.

“We’re very excited about where we’re at,” she said. “This time, we’re going to get it done or it is not going to happen.”

Also seeking a spot on the 2024 ballot is a proposed constitutional amendment to enact the EPIC Option Consumption Tax, which would replace all state sales and income taxes along with local property taxes. Because it is a proposal to amend the Nebraska Constitution, that drive will need more than 124,000 valid signatures, as well as qualifying in 38 counties.

Of the respondents to the Neilan poll, 54% supported the EPIC tax, with 30% “definitely” in support of it.

That prompted Neilan to say that “is not a strong position.”

“Ballot issues tend to only lose support when the opposition starts spending money to educate voters,” he said.

The EPIC tax is opposed by many Nebraska business groups, which have labeled the idea “dangerous” and “too good to be true.”

State Sen. Steve Erdman of Bayard, a leading proponent of the consumption tax, said Neilan is misreading the tea leaves.

Erdman said Nebraskans who have come to EPIC tax meetings have been solidly in favor of it.

They understand, he said, that “unless we make a dramatic change” in state taxes, they will continue to see efforts that just “decrease the increase” instead of actually providing a tax break.

Erdman added that he has seen very little support in his western Nebraska district for Gov. Jim Pillen’s property tax relief plan, which involves raising sales taxes and removing tax exemptions for things like farm machinery repairs.

“That plan is a pipe dream,” the senator said.

The poll was conducted by Data Targeting Inc. of Gainesville, Florida. The group polled 2,198 likely general election voters on Feb. 7-9. Cell phone and landline calls were used, as well as texts. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.1%.

 

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