Amid growing speculation that activists may have fallen short in their bid to get a cannabis legalization question on this year’s ballot in Missouri, a top official in the state said this week that the outcome is far from sealed.
“I can’t say without any certainty whether it will make it or not. It is in no way certain that they will fail. This isn’t dead,” Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Ashcroft’s office is reviewing hundreds of thousands of signatures submitted by Legal Missouri 2022, the group vying to get the question on this year’s ballot. If it were to pass, the initiative would legalize cannabis for Missouri adults aged 21 and older and establish a state-regulated marijuana market. It would provide a path for individuals in the state previously convicted of nonviolent pot-related offenses to have their records expunged.
But first, it must qualify for the ballot, and to do that, organizers “need signatures from 8% of the registered voters in six of the state’s eight congressional districts,” according to the Post-Dispatch. (That amounts to about 170,000 signatures total.)
The Associated Press reported that Legal Missouri “collected nearly twice the required number of signatures by mid-April, and it turned in more than 385,000 signatures” in early May.
But signs of trouble emerged earlier this week. Local television station KFVS reported on Tuesday that organizers had gathered a sufficient number of signatures in four congressional districts, but the count in the other four could come down to the wire.
Ashcroft’s office will make a final call on whether the initiative qualifies by August 9.
In the meantime, those involved with Legal Missouri are holding out hope.
“The Legal Missouri 2022 campaign continues to work to ensure that every valid voter signature is counted properly, and is excited that Missouri voters will soon have their opportunity to decide for themselves,” the group’s campaign manager, John Payne, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
“Our close review of voter signature totals submitted to the state by counties shows that we have more than enough signatures to qualify our citizens’ initiative for the November general election ballot — and that some counties, due to a reliance on temporary workers, mistakenly rejected thousands of valid voter signatures. To be clear, this is not to suggest or imply any wrongdoing on the part of counties,” Payne continued.
Ashcroft himself did not rule out that possibility.
“There have been times in the past, when we went back and checked, we’ve found enough signatures,” Ashcroft said, as quoted by the Post-Dispatch.
Payne and other supporters of the initiative believe that the state’s previous embrace of medical cannabis, and the subsequent launch of that program, bode well for its chances this November.
In 2018, a large majority of Missouri voters approved an initiative that legalized medical pot for qualifying patients.
“Missourians now have confidence in our state government’s ability to operate a new division of state government that would regulate marijuana,” Legal Missouri says on its website. “The Department of Health and Senior Services has effectively administered the new program and met all guidelines set out by the Missouri Constitution.”
In addition to legalizing marijuana for adults and setting the framework for a regulated market, the initiative would also extend the “amount of time that medical marijuana patient and caregiver ID cards are valid from one to three years while keeping that cost low ($25),” according to Legal Missouri’s website. It would also reduce the $100 fee for patients who grow their own cannabis by 50%.