Photo by Joe Chitwood
Matt Elworth gives out information on the political party.
Photo by Joe Chitwood
Party Chairperson Elworth flashes peace sign while a supporter signs petition.
A steady flow of people stopped Wednesday at the “Legalize Marijuana Now” information booth on the northwest corner of Phillip and Dewey.Cars honked horns, drivers and passengers cheered and flashed peace signs while a few stopped to gather information and sign a petition supporting the establishment of a new political party in Nebraska.
Mark Elworth Jr., the state chairman of the Legalize Marijuana Now party of Nebraska said Wednesday that a two-day petition drive in North Platte is an effort to get their political party recognized.
Legalize Marijuana Now was formed in 1998 in Minnesota and is also recognized in Iowa.
“We hope to make Nebraska our third state,” Elworth said.
People have misconceptions about the petition.
Although passers-by might think the petition would put a “legalize marijuana” proposal on the ballot, it would put the political party on the ballot.
The candidates would be pro-marijuana, and if elected, they will push for legalization.
“We hope to have our candidates ready this fall,” Elworth said. “We have a serious candidate that wants to run against Rep. Adrian Smith, and I will probably run for some office,” he said.
Elworth ran for vice-president of the United States in 2016, on the Minnesota ballot.
He said during the 2016 campaign, a candidate was ready to run against Smith, but the state blocked it, because the party is not registered.
“We had materials ready, but the system is set to where it is nearly impossible to be on a ballot. Even as an independent, you need thousands of signatures to get on,” he said.
They don’t want independents involved in their party, per se, he said.
“A bill passed by State Sen. John Murante (District 49), the ‘voter ID’ guy changed the law. Independents used to need just 2,000 signatures to get on the ballot, but now it takes about 150,000. Murante wants to be Nebraska’s next Secretary of State and be in charge of our election department. We are not happy about that,” he said.
“We have to get our voters mobilized. We are seeing statistics that only 20 percent of voters under age 45 actually vote. That shows us that we need to activate our base. Voters supporting marijuana legalization are not even ready to vote if we had it on the ballot,” Elworth said.
“We would like to get into high schools. We have a hard time doing that and we believe students should know about the benefits of medical marijuana,” he said.
Although Elworth has openly said, “I wish we could all have as much marijuana as we want,” he believes the petition to get his party registered is more important, then elect candidates who are motivated to allow medical marijuana and hemp, he said.
“I would like to go all the way and see it decriminalized, but the state is not ready,” he said. “Working towards medical legalization is the proper thing right now.”
Nebraskans are open to helping people with medical issues, he said. He also said marijuana is not a gateway drug.
“The first time you give your kid sugar, you are introducing him to a gateway drug. It is in everything and makes us sick. I think pot is a gateway medicine that gets people off pills and helps them overcome sickness and pain. That is why I want to see the law changed, because now sick people using oils or edibles for pain can be charged with a felony,”
An anonymous supporter was there and promoted the benefits of marijuana, both medical and recreational, but refused to give us his name.
Elworth said the signing tour travels throughout Nebraska and is close to its goal.
“We need to gather 9,000 more signatures to get on the Aug. 1, 2018 ballot. We only need 5,600, but our goal is to go over, in case some signatures are disallowed.”
Petition supporter Kate Gabel, a two-time Omaha city council candidate who is running as a Republican for governor, is also traveling with Elworth.