A proposal to legalize recreational cannabis use for adults officially qualified for the Missouri ballot this week, giving voters there the opportunity to end the prohibition on pot this November.
Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft said Tuesday that his office certified the legalization initiative petition for this year’s ballot, according to the Kansas City Star.
In order for the initiative to qualify for the state ballot, organizers of the petition needed to obtain signatures from 8% of registered voters in six of Missouri’s eight congressional districts.
Ashcroft’s office “certified more than 214,000 voter signatures across the state’s eight congressional districts—well above the required roughly 180,000 needed to make the ballot,” the Kansas City Star reported.
The initiative would legalize cannabis for adults aged 21 and older and establish a system for a regulated pot market in the state.
As in other states that have legalized recreational cannabis use, Missouri’s new law would also provide a process through which individuals previously convicted of pot-related offenses could have their records expunged.
A large majority of voters in Missouri approved an initiative in 2018 that legalized medical cannabis, and polls have shown that the state is ready to take the next step and legalize recreational pot, as well.
But for Legal Missouri 2022, the coalition behind this year’s legalization drive, getting to this point is something of a victory. As recently as two weeks ago, it appeared the initiative was in danger of not qualifying for the ballot.
Legal Missouri submitted more than 385,000 total signatures in May, but a local television station in Missouri reported late last month that the signature count in four of the state’s congressional districts could come down to the wire.
Ashcroft at the time urged caution, saying the initiative “isn’t dead.”
“I can’t say without any certainty whether it will make it or not. It is in no way certain that they will fail,” Ashcroft said then.
On Tuesday, Legal Missouri could finally breathe a sigh of relief––and set its focus on November.
“Our statewide coalition of activists, business owners, medical marijuana patients and criminal justice reform advocates has worked tirelessly to reach this point, and deserves all the credit,” John Payne, campaign manager of Legal Missouri 2022, said in a statement. “Our campaign volunteers collected 100,000 signatures, on top of paid signature collection. That outpouring of grassroots support among Missourians who want to legalize, tax and regulate cannabis made all the difference. We look forward to engaging with voters across the state in the coming weeks and months. Missourians are more than ready to end the senseless and costly prohibition of marijuana.”
As the fate of the initiative hung in the balance late last month, Payne maintained optimism, saying that any discrepancy with the signatures could be down to human error.
“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,” he said at the time.
A poll conducted by SurveyUSA last month found that 62% of Missouri voters believe that recreational cannabis use for adults should be legal.
The poll showed that large majorities of Democrats (78%) and independents (68%) back legalization, while a plurality of Republicans (47%) said the same.