More than 390,000 signatures and nearly $6 million in backing still might not be enough in Legal Missouri 2022’s ongoing effort to place an adult-use cannabis legalization measure on this November’s ballot.
While activists from Legal Missouri, a political action committee (PAC), turned in more than double the roughly 171,500 valid signatures needed statewide, the initiative campaign has only crossed the finish line in four of the eight congressional districts so far.
To qualify a petition for the ballot, the initiative effort must include valid signatures from 8% of voters in each of at least six of the eight congressional districts.
As of July 26, Legal Missouri was short 1,573 signatures in the 6th Congressional District, which extends across the northern region of the state, and 1,444 signatures short in the 7th Congressional District, which includes Springfield in the southwestern corner of the state, The Missouri Independent reported.
However, the shortfall in the 7th District was reported differently, at 405 valid signatures shy of what’s needed, by CBS-affiliate KCTV: 29,608 of the 30,013 valid signatures needed had been verified by local election authorities and sent to Missouri Secretary of State John Ashcroft’s office, according to the news network.
Legal Missouri’s efforts in the 4th and 8th congressional districts—in central and southeastern Missouri, respectively—also were short of their respective benchmarks as of July 26. But the initial figures are unofficial as county officials have until Aug. 2 to complete their verifications before Ashcroft makes his final determination if the campaign met the sufficiency standards for the ballot.
Legal Missouri Campaign Manager John Payne told The Independent that the initial signature reports from local election authorities are being double checked to identify possible errors.
“As we continue to see more signature counts submitted by counties, it’s become crystal clear that we have more than enough signatures to qualify our citizens’ initiative for the November general election ballot,” Payne said. “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.”
While Legal Missouri collected nearly 400,000 signatures for its petition, a large percentage of those signatures are discarded for various reasons—signers might not be registered to vote, are no longer state residents or their handwriting was ineligible.
In the 1st Congressional District, which includes St. Louis, group organizers from Legal Missouri collected 88,644 signatures, but more than 60% were determined invalid by local election authorities, KCTV reported. Nonetheless, Legal Missouri still eclipsed the 25,632-signature threshold needed in that district.
If successful, Legal Missouri’s ballot measure would amend the state Constitution to: legalize cannabis for those 21 and older; allow individuals convicted of nonviolent cannabis-related offenses to petition to be released from incarcerations and/or have their records automatically expunged; establish a lottery to award licenses, distributed equally to congressional districts; require a registration card for personal cultivation; and impose a 6% tax on cannabis sales, among other provisions.
A poll earlier this year revealed that 62% of Missourians support legalizing cannabis for adults, according to Marijuana Policy Project.
The Legal Missouri initiative is supported by the ACLU of Missouri, Empower Missouri, Missouri Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Missouri Medical Cannabis Trade Association, NAACP St. Louis City and others.