Missourians will vote Nov. 8 on full legalization of marijuana, Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft announced Tuesday.
Ashcroft, a Republican, said his office confirmed that the campaign to place a legalization question on the ballot indeed collected enough signatures for voters to weigh in this fall, despite unofficial reports from counties last month indicating the effort would fall short.
At the same time, Ashcroft said a plan to institute ranked-choice voting did not collect enough signatures to make the November ballot.
Legal Missouri 2022, which had poured nearly $6 million into the campaign, now must convince a majority of Missouri voters to back legalizing marijuana in the Nov. 8 general election.
“Our campaign volunteers collected 100,000 signatures, on top of paid signature collection,” John Payne, the campaign manager, said in a statement. “That outpouring of grassroots support among Missourians who want to legalize, tax and regulate cannabis made all the difference.
“We look forward to engaging with voters across the state in the coming weeks and months,” he said. “Missourians are more than ready to end the senseless and costly prohibition of marijuana.”
Established medical marijuana businesses have backed the measure, which gives them the first shot at full recreational sales.
While established medical marijuana companies may convert their licenses to full recreational ones, “microlicenses” would be available in the program’s first days to “smaller operators and individuals and groups” negatively affected by marijuana prohibition, Payne has said.
“All new licenses for the first 548 days will be microlicenses,” Payne has said.
Some lawmakers pushed a competing marijuana legalization bill this year, but it fizzled in May. The legislation, called the “Cannabis Freedom Act,” originally contained no limits on marijuana business licenses — a key difference between it and Legal Missouri, which maintains the state’s ability to limit licenses.
The state originally issued 338 licenses to sell, grow and manufacture marijuana products, which proved controversial when hundreds of appeals were filed by entities who lost out on medical marijuana licenses.
But the Missouri Medical Cannabis Trade Association, the state’s largest industry group, has dismissed the idea that the industry is limited in a way that harms patient access.
The industry in March said that with nearly 200 dispensaries open, there were three times as many outlets as in Illinois, with about twice the population as Missouri.
At the other end of the spectrum, Oklahoma, derided as the “Wild West” of legalization, had permitted more than 2,000 medical marijuana dispensaries as of early this year.
A majority of Americans first voiced support for marijuana legalization in 2013, according to Gallup polling, with approval continuing to rise.
Public support for legalization stood at 68% in a Gallup poll released in November, tying a record set the year before.
Eighty-three percent of Democrats surveyed last year supported marijuana legalization as well as 71% of independents. Half of Republicans backed legalization while 49% opposed it.
If approved, Missouri would be the 20th state to legalize the recreational use of cannabis products.