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Cannabis advocates in Missouri who want the state to become the next to legalize cannabis for adult use have reached a new milestone in their ballot drive with two weeks to spare.

Legal Missouri 2022, a group petitioning to put recreational cannabis on the ballot, announced that it collected more than 200,000 voter signatures to date as outreach efforts escalate ahead of the May 8 signature submission deadline. 

John Payne, Legal Missouri’s campaign manager, said that the efforts are going well and are getting around 9,000 new signatures per day with the aim to collect even more before the deadline. The ballot initiative has raised $1,433,927.10 in total since its launch in 2021 with the vast majority of funds coming from Missouri cannabis companies. 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.

“I think this will help the industry grow and give great opportunities in Missouri in many ways,” Payne said. “1 out of 10 new jobs since 2020 were in the medical [cannabis] industry. There’s gonna be thousands of new jobs through legalization.”

Besides contributions, Legal Missouri 2022 is tightly connected to the state’s cannabis inidstry through personnel. The 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, director of communications for the Missouri Medical Cannabis Trade Association.

The ballot drive was drafted in 2020 and signatures were collected beginning in October 2021. Payne said that efforts slowed down as the omicron variant of COVID-19 began to surge. 

If passed, it would create a state constitutional amendment 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.

The amendment, if passed, would also mandate a 6 percent retail sales tax that would generate estimated annual revenue of at least $40.8 million and additional local government revenues of at least $13.8 million, according to Payne.

Funds would also be used for veterans’ services, drug addiction treatment and be used for underfunded public defenders.

Other provisions in the initiative include:

  • Allowing local communities to opt out of adult use retail sales through local elections. 
  • Extending the amount of time that medical marijuana patient and caregiver ID cards are valid from one to three years while keeping that costs as low as around $25 and halving the current $100 fee for Missourians who choose to grow medical marijuana at home will to $50
  • Providing employment discrimination protection for medical patients, preventing them from being denied employment or being disciplined or fired for off-the-job use. 
  • Adding nurse practitioners to the category of healthcare professionals who can issue medical cannabis recommendations to patients.

“This tremendous reception from voters across our state makes us confident that Missourians will have the opportunity later this year to vote on becoming the 20th state to regulate, tax and legalize marijuana for adult use,” Payne said.

Meanwhile, State Rep. Ron Hicks is attempting to pass a bill in the state legislature that legalizes cannabis in the state and a ballot campaign that is amassing hundreds of thousands of signatures. HB2704 would legalize recreational use in the state, double the amount of license holders, and give a chance for nonviolent offenders to petition for expungement for cannabis related offenses.

Payne said that he doesn’t see a path for that bill passing, and considers it “dead on arrival.”

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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.