John Payne, campaign manager for Legal Missouri 2022, kicked off the signature collection campaign in Kansas City, Mo. on December 1, 2021. Credit: Submitted / Legal Missouri 2022

After six months of door knocking and raising over $1.4 million, Legal Missouri 2022 announced it was submitting more than 385,000 voter signatures to put adult use cannabis legalization on this November ballot in Missouri. 

John Payne, Legal Missouri’s campaign manager, said that after the signatures are validated and approved by the Secretary of State’s office, they will be notified of it making the November ballot in late August. The organization needs just over 160,000 valid signatures to earn a ballot spot. As of May 2, the state had 181,978 registered medical cannabis patients.

If passed, the measure would create a state constitutional amendment – similar to 2018’s medical measure – that would allow Missourians 21 and older to possess, consume, purchase, and cultivate cannabis. It would also make Missouri the first state in the country where voters choose to automatically expunge past cannabis convictions.

The initiative would also pave the way for disenfranchised individuals and communities to get a stake in the industry. It would add a minimum of 144 licensed facilities – ranging from dispensaries to growing sites – reserved for social equity applicants.

“We’re all really proud to get this across the finish line and happy about the hard work we’ve done to get to this point,” Payne said. ”This has been years in the making and we’ll be even happier when we get it passed in November.”

The largest contributors to the campaign have been other cannabis companies in the state. New Approach Advocacy Fund is the largest contributor so far, donating $300,000 in total, with BD Ventures, which owns Flora Farms, New Growth Horizon, and the Proper brand, all donating $215,000 each in total coming in second.

Some in the state remain unconvinced in the initiative’s ultimate goal. A rally was held earlier in March with advocates and state lawmakers advocating for Missouri House Bill 2704, the Cannabis Freedom Act. Rally participants also called for boycott of Legal Missouri 2022, alleging the group is led by a Missouri cannabis “monopoly” advancing their own agenda. 

“I call for Missourians to boycott this industry and further decline to sign the Legal Missouri 2022 ballot initiative, which would extend this monopoly to the recreational market by amending the Missouri Constitution,” said Tim Gilio of the Missouri Marijuana Legalization Movement earlier in March.

A legislative alternative to Legal Missouri’s petition, HB2704, proposed by Republican Rep. Ron Hicks, currently has 20 co-sponsors, including Republican Rep. Shamed Dogan, who filed similar legislation and Democratic Rep. Ashley Bland-Manlove. However, the measure has stalled on the House floor as Rep. Hicks has held back from calling the measure for a vote.

The ballot initiative is driven by closely linked cannabis industry personnel in the state. The campaign’s chief strategist of Legal Missouri is Alan Zagier, a principal of Democratic political consulting firm Tightlight Public Affairs. The president of Tightline is Jack Cardetti, who serves as director of communications for the Missouri Medical Cannabis Trade Association.

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Trey Arline is Grown In’s Midwest Reporter. He was most recently with the Daily Herald, but has also reported for Vegas PBS, The Nevada Independent, and the Associated Press.