The political climate of cannabis is changing. According to a recent Gallup poll, support for cannabis legalization amongst conservatives is at an all-time high, falling at a whopping 51 percent of Republicans. One of those conservative advocates is Krystal Gabel, who is running for Governor of Nebraska in 2018.
“We need to think about building jobs and healing our sick people, whether they are young or old,” explained Gabel in a phone interview with Cannabis Now.
Since she has previously volunteered with third parties, including Legal Cannabis Now and the Green Party, why run under a conservative platform in the age of Trump, especially when he has appointed Jeff Sessions as attorney general? Strategy, Gabel said.
Nebraska is a red state, she stressed. The state hasn’t elected a Democrat in a gubernatorial election since 1994. Additionally, the New York Times reports, nearly 59 percent of the state voted for Trump.
“We have a high independent population, who just need to be persuaded to participate in a primary,” Gabel said. “For me, to run Republican, it’s about getting people out in the primary like Bernie did.”
Every four years, the primary election occurs the spring before the fall’s general election. There are two primary elections: one for Republican candidates, the other for Democrats. To participate in the Republican primary election, for instance, you must be registered to vote as a Republican.
Fortunately, petitioning for the primary election has invited her to spark conversations around law enforcement, employment, and cannabis.
“We have a low unemployment rate [in Nebraska], but people can’t find jobs because of their [criminal] history,” Gabel said. “If I’m out petitioning and I meet 100 people in two hours, I bet 30 percent of them have been tangled up in the law. I know more unemployed people because they can’t find a job.”
As of October 2017, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the state’s unemployment rate at 2.8 percent, but Gabel stressed that number doesn’t include felons, including those who have been arrested on non-criminal, marijuana-related charges. As governor, she’s committed to expunging records to help those with marijuana-related charges find jobs again.
Gabel is only one of two declared candidates for the Republican primary on May 15, 2018. The other candidate is Pete Ricketts, the state’s current governor and son of TD Ameritrade founder, Joe Ricketts. In 2014, Ricketts won a six-way Republican primary before winning the general election by 57 percent.
In April 2015, the office of Gov. Ricketts released a statement condemning marijuana as a “dangerous drug.” The letter also cited a 2014 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine from the National Institute on Drug Abuse that invalidated the benefits of cannabis. In contrast, the National Academy of Sciences released a report this past January with almost 100 conclusions on cannabis research conducted over the past 20 years which discussed the many medicinal benefits to treat pain, chemotherapy-induced nausea and multiple sclerosis.
In early 2016, the Supreme Court of the United States denied to hear Nebraska and Oklahoma’s lawsuit against Colorado’s recreational and medical cannabis policies.
Currently, there are no declared gubernatorial candidates under the Democratic Party. Bob Krist is confirmed to be running as an independent. Krist helped introduce medical cannabis legislation to the state unicameral legislature earlier this year.
This isn’t Gabel’s first race, either. Previously, she ran to serve on Metropolitan Utilities District last year and Omaha City Council this year, but lost both elections. However, Ricketts, too, has a history of losing elections. According to USA Today, Ricketts dropped 13 million dollars on a U.S. Senate race only to lose to Democrat, the most recent Democrat to be elected to Governor in 1994, Ben Nelson.
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