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Bid To Get Legalization Initiative on Missouri Ballot ‘Isn’t Dead’ Yet

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. You can’t be certain they won’t succeed. 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. It would allow Missourians aged 21 or older to legally possess cannabis and set up a marijuana market. Individuals who have been convicted in Missouri of pot-related crimes but not violently would be able to get their records erased.

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. This amounts to approximately 170,000 total signatures.

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.

This week, however, there were signs of trouble. KFVS local TV reported that organizers have collected sufficient signatures for four congressional districts. But the numbers in the four remaining ones could be down to the wire.

Ashcroft’s office will make a final call on whether the initiative qualifies by August 9.

Those involved in Legal Missouri have some 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 did not exclude this 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.

Missouri’s 2018 election result saw a majority approve an initiative to legalize medical marijuana for certain 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. The $100 charge for cannabis patients growing their own marijuana would be reduced by half.