Mark Elworth Jr. has been working on forming a party in Nebraska to support marijuana legalization for a long time — six years, to be exact.
Now, he thinks he's gathered enough signatures to make the Legal Marijuana Now Party official.
Those who gathered signatures turned the petition in four years ago and came up just shy of the number needed to certify, he said. This time, they needed 6,800 signatures, and this week Elworth turned in 15,000 that he and a couple of other people have been collecting for years.
The party has full ballot access in Minnesota, he said, and has been on and off the ballot in Iowa.
"We're focusing right now on the legalization of medical marijuana and have been in all 50 states," Elworth said.
Since the party can't have ballot access this year, his focus in turning in the signatures now is to keep young people from leaving the state, he said. He sees all over social media, he said, that they are disgusted with Nebraska politics and are talking about leaving the state because of those politics.
"We need to stop that. We need to put up a fight. We can't let our people go," he said. "We want to give people hope. They think that this is hopeless."
The Nebraska Legislature has continually turned down legalization of medical marijuana. A recent petition initiative to legalize it received enough signatures to get on the 2020 ballot, and it was certified by Secretary of State Bob Evnen. But it was challenged and the Supreme Court ruled against Evnen's certification. So it will not get a vote of the people this year.
When asked if the Legal Marijuana Now party is about just one issue, Elworth said: "We're marijuana smokers. You can imagine what we're about. We're really about the lifestyle. Not just marijuana. We're a whole culture that is not represented, really, by anybody."
Elworth said he will concentrate in the next two years on getting people registered for the party, Elworth said.
The party started in Minnesota more than 30 years ago to oppose drug prohibition as an offshoot of the Grassroots Party.
Elworth, 44, is also the Democratic Party nominee for Congress in District 3. The Nebraska Democratic Party is not supporting him, however, because he failed to properly complete an application with the party.
Cindi Allen, spokeswoman for the Secretary of State's office said the Legal Marijuana Now Party application was filed too late to be a part of the general election ballot in November.
Evnen reached an agreement with Elworth that the signatures that were submitted would be processed after the Board of Canvassers meets to certify the results of the November election. If the signatures are sufficient, the party would be recognized for the 2022 primary election, she said.