JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Despite pouring nearly $6 million into the effort, supporters of making marijuana legal in Missouri may have fallen short of getting the question on the November ballot.

Preliminary counts indicate the initiative may have narrowly failed to collect enough voter signatures in two of the six congressional districts needed to get on the ballot.

That could change, however. Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft’s office is reviewing recently submitted reports from county election officials and will make a determination by Aug. 9.

And, he says, the outcome is not a done deal.

“I can’t say without any certainty whether it will make it or not. It is in no way certain that they will fail. This isn’t dead,” Ashcroft said.

In order to place the question on the ballot, backers of the plan need signatures from 8% of the registered voters in six of the state’s eight congressional districts.


The medical cannabis industry-backed group Legal Missouri submitted enough signatures in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 5th Congressional Districts.

But in two western Missouri districts, the 6th and the 7th, the latest county reviews show each falling short. KFVS-TV, the CBS affiliate serving Cape Girardeau, reported that District 7 was an estimated 400 signatures short, based on information from Newton County.

Legal Missouri 2022 campaign manager John Payne said supporters are not giving up.

“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,” Payne said.

In May, the coalition submitted more than 700 boxes of petitions containing over 400,000 voter signatures to legalize adult-use marijuana and automatically expunge most nonviolent past cannabis offenses.

Those signatures were digitized and then distributed to county election officials to be verified. Payne said that’s where the potential problem lies.


“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 added.

Ashcroft, too, said there could be a scenario where a temporary worker “pushed the wrong button” or miscounted a page of signatures.

“There have been times in the past, when we went back and checked, we’ve found enough signatures,” Ashcroft said.

After years of failing to convince state lawmakers to make pot products legal for recreational use, a coalition of medical marijuana companies operating in the state financed much of the cost of the ballot initiative.

Under the plan, Missouri would become the 20th state where recreational pot sales are legal.

Companies that hold medical marijuana licenses would get first crack at selling recreational cannabis products. The language also calls for the expungement of marijuana-related offenses from criminal records.


The ballot initiative was seen as the most likely route to legalizing marijuana after the Legislature again balked at a proposed law that would have removed marijuana and THC from the list of controlled substances. It also would allow people to petition the courts for expungement of pot charges.

But the effort fizzled in the House in the final days of the spring legislative session. It was not clear if it had enough support in the Senate either.

The sponsor of the legislation, state Rep. Ron Hicks, R-Defiance, is term-limited and won’t be returning to the House next year.

The potential troubles facing the marijuana initiative come after a separate proposed constitutional amendment on election changes apparently failed to collect enough valid signatures.

The Better Elections plan would abolish partisan primary elections and allow voters to rank their top four choices, regardless of party.

The top four vote-getters would advance to a general election, and voters would again rank their top four choices or just vote for their top pick.

While its shortfall is not yet official, Better Elections issued a statement in June acknowledging that they likely would not make the ballot based on their signature count.

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