As more and more states legalize marijuana, Legal Marijuana NOW party chair Krystal Gabel hopes Nebraska could be the next.
On Saturday, Gabel and other party representatives canvased on the corner of Avenue B and West 27th Street. Gabel said she was hoping to rally supporters, and voters, to her cause.
Legal Marijuana NOW is more than a pipe dream. As of April 21, the party gained ballot recognition, the first step in becoming a major political party in Nebraska. Once achieved, LMN would have the same ballot access as Democrats and Republicans in Nebraska. That means they could run candidates without having to write in names on a ballot.
About 1 in 3 Americans live in an area where marijuana is legal in 2021 after New Jersey, Arizona and Montana passed measures to legalize adult-use marijuana.
Despite the namesake policy position of LMN, Gabel said the party’s goals are raising voter turnout and running pro-marijuana candidates. But securing LMN as a permanent fixture on Nebraska ballots must come first.
“We have party ballot access for four years. In that time frame, we have to get 10,000 registered voters to become a permanent fixture on the ballot for upcoming elections,” Gabel told the Star-Herald as passing drivers honked their car horns in support.
That process is moving smoothly so far, she said. In fact, Gabel said her party is running several candidates at multiple levels of government. From the U.S. Congress to local sheriffs, Gabel said no office is too big or too small for an LMN candidate.
While LMN supports candidates at any level, Gabel said flipping cities and counties from red or blue to dank green is a big priority. That’s where real marijuana change can happen, she said.
“If you can change your local attitude and be very accepting of pot — and in Nebraska, specifically — a place like Kearney could actually (decriminalize) on their own,” she said.
Gabel said decriminalization of marijuana is a good first step to the ultimate goal of full legalization.
“No more cops knocking on people’s doors, no more fear of getting pulled over for not wearing a seatbelt, and then they give you a pot ticket instead,” she said.
While legal marijuana is often associated with blue states like California, Gabel said some of the party’s strongest support comes from Nebraska’s deep-red Third District. Gabel attributed the support to a general feeling of disenfranchisement in rural Nebraska.
When her party was trying to collect the 6,800 signatures needed to get on the ballot, Gabel said people in the Third District were an easy sell.
“It was four years getting signatures out of Omaha. That’s really the sticky point,” Gabel said, adding that fear of losing votes drives Omaha Democrats away from LMN.
In western Nebraska, Gabel said Republican voters feel underserved and are more willing to consider what LMN has to offer.