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Missouri Marijuana Activists Say They’ve Exceeded Signature Requirements For Legalization Ballot Measures As Prospects For Separate Reform Bills Dwindle



The prospects of legalizing marijuana in Missouri this year through the GOP-controlled legislature are in doubt—but a campaign to put the issue on the ballot said on Wednesday that they’ve collected nearly twice as many signatures as they need to put the issue on the November ballot.

At the same time, those activists are already facing a challenge from other advocates over alleged instances of misrepresenting their initiative petition during signature gathering.

Lawmakers and stakeholders have been pushing for legislative reform, but that seems to be in jeopardy, according to the sponsor of one legalization bill. Meanwhile, the campaign Legal Missouri 2022 announced that is has have amassed more than 325,000 signatures to let voters decide on the policy.

They will continue to collect signatures up until Sunday’s turn-in deadline, but the campaign says they’re confident the state will confirm that they’ve gathered more than the requisite 171,592 valid submissions to qualify for the ballot.

“From Hannibal to Joplin, St. Joseph to Springfield, St. Louis, Kansas City and all points between, voters across our great state are ready to make Missouri the 20th to regulate, tax and legalize marijuana for adult use,” Legal Missouri 2022 campaign manager John Payne said in a press release.

“We’re confident that our historic signature count provides the necessary cushion to qualify for the ballot,” he said. “But we’re not taking any chances, and will continue to pound the pavement these next several days to ensure our proposal exceeds the required threshold.”

Under the measure, adults 21 and older would be able to possess up to three ounces of marijuana and purchase it from licensed retailers. Adults could also cultivate up to six plants for personal use.

It would also impose a six percent tax on recreational cannabis sales and use revenue to facilitate automatic expungements for people with certain non-violent marijuana offenses on their records. Remaining revenue would go toward veterans’ healthcare, substance misuse treatment and the state’s public defender system.

The announcement also comes amid a push to enact legalization through the legislature, with supporters arguing that a bill from Rep. Ron Hicks (R) would be a superior vehicle for the reform compared to the industry-funded initiative that they’ve raised concerns about.

While some advocates and stakeholders want to see Hicks’s legalization bill enacted ahead of an upcoming legislative deadline, the prospects of that reform advancing to the floor are now strongly in doubt.

The bill moved through the committee process, and there were expectations that it would reach the House floor this week, but the sponsor says that it doesn’t seem leadership is willing to advance it before the session adjourns on May 13.

“I don’t see this happening. I really don’t,” Hicks told Marijuana Moment in a phone interview on Wednesday. “Usually I’m optimistic on everything—but I’ve been in this body too long to know that the time has left us. We needed to have this done and on the floor yesterday or the day before.”

Hick’s bill would legalize the possession and sale of cannabis for adults 21 or older, provide opportunities for expungements, authorize social consumption facilities and permit cannabis businesses to claim tax deductions with the state.

Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,000 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

Not only are certain stakeholders opposed to the content of the Legal Missouri 2022 initiative petition—arguing, for example, that it would stymie competitiveness in the industry by giving existing medical cannabis businesses a head start in the recreational market—but some, including Hicks himself, say that the campaign misrepresented the measure while collecting signatures.

To that end, a lobbyist working with the lawmaker submitted a compliant to the secretary of state’s office on Wednesday, referencing accounts about the alleged misrepresentations that witnesses say they personally experienced or heard about—including claims that signature gatherers falsely said their petitions supported Hicks’s bill in the legislature.

“During the course of the last several months, we have heard numerous accounts of petitioners affiliated with the Legal Missouri 2022 campaign misrepresenting Initiative 2022-059 by saying it supports HB 2704, by misrepresenting specific language in the initiative relating to marijuana offense expungement and commercial licensing, and other points,” the lobbyist, Eapen Thampy of Great State Strategies, said in the complaint, which was shared with Marijuana Moment.

One of the anecdotal reports that Thampy included in the complaint came from Lauren Strickland, who according to the submission said that she was approached by a petitioner last month who claimed that legalization initiative supports the Hicks bill.

“Obviously I knew she was lying, the [bill] is already in the House,” Strickland wrote. “At any rate, I went on to question her and she just kept adding on to the lies.”

The complaint also included copies of a Twitter thread that Thampy said was posted by Mike Armstrong, who opposes the ballot initiative. He said that a campaign signature collector incorrectly told him that the measure wouldn’t limit competition through licensing restrictions and that anyone would be able to sell marijuana if it passed.

Hicks, the representative, told Marijuana Moment that “when they’re telling you one thing and it really does another, I think you’ve been lied to. I think you’ve been cheated.”

“And that’s what I think is happening with a lot of these signatures that have happened on this initiative petition,” he said.

Payne of Legal Missouri 2022 dismissed the allegations in the complaint, telling Marijuana Moment that it relies on “thinly-sourced inferences and vague references to unnamed petitioners.”

“We are proud of the large coalition that has come together as part of our citizen initiative to make Missouri the 20th state to tax, regulate and legalize cannabis,” he said. “The initiative would make Missouri the first state to automatically expunge most past, nonviolent marijuana offenses by a vote of the people—which is just one of many reasons we have already collected more than 325,000 signatures to place marijuana legalization before Missouri voters later this year.”

While it remains to be seen whether the state will take action based on the claims of misrepresentation, Hicks said that he plans to personally call the secretary of state to see if there are avenues for recourse.

Activists with Legal Missouri 2022 aren’t the only ones pushing to put legalization on the ballot. A Missouri House committee on Tuesday approved a GOP-led joint resolution seeking to let voters decided on the reform.

Rep. Shamed Dogan’s (R) legislation was amended ahead of the panel’s action to scale back some of its provisions.

Under his revised proposal, cannabis offenses would be removed from the state’s criminal statute, allowing adults to possess, use and sell marijuana for personal use without facing penalties, pending future regulations that could be enacted by the legislature.

Another Republican lawmaker in the state, Rep. Jason Chipman (R), filed a joint resolution this session that would let voters require additional oversight over how medical cannabis tax revenue is distributed to veterans.

New Approach Missouri, which successfully got a medical cannabis initiative passed by voters in 2018, announced last summer its plans to put the reform proposal on the ballot through Legal Missouri 2022.

The organization tried to place the issue of legalization before voters in 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic derailed that effort.

Despite the health crisis, activists managed to collect tens of thousands of raw signatures within months, though they needed 160,199 valid signatures to qualify.

A different campaign, Fair Access Missouri, separately explored multiple citizen initiatives this year with the hopes of getting at least one on the ballot.

Another state lawmaker filed a bill late in February to decriminalize a range of drugs including marijuana, psilocybin, LSD, MDMA and cocaine.

The measure’s introduction came after a Republican Missouri legislator filed a separate bill to give residents with serious illnesses legal access to a range of psychedelic drugs like psilocybin, ibogaine and LSD through an expanded version of the state’s existing right-to-try law.

Additionally, a Missouri House committee held a hearing in March on a GOP-led bill to legalize a wide range of psychedelics for therapeutic use at designated care facilities while further decriminalizing low-level possession in general.

Nearly one out of every 10 jobs that were created in Missouri last year came from the state’s medical marijuana industry, according to an analysis of state labor data that was released by a trade group last month.

Separately, there’s some legislative drama playing out in the state over a proposal that advocates say would restrict their ability to place Constitutional amendments on the ballot.

Connecticut Lawmakers Send Psychedelic Treatment Program Proposal To Governor As Part Of Budget Bill

Photo courtesy of WeedPornDaily.

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