Missouri Cannabis Activists to Unveil Adult Use Initiative for 2022

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Backers of Missouri's successful 2018 ballot measure that legalized medical marijuana say they plan to unveil their next effort — an initiative petition targeting the 2022 ballot to legalize recreational use — by the end of June.

The timing will allow signature collection to begin in August, says John Payne, though he declined to specify details on possession and cultivation limits while the campaign's drafting committee is still finalizing the petition.

With Missouri dispensaries opening across the state, Payne says he's confident that residents are ready to expand cannabis legalization. If the measure is passed, Missouri would join fourteen states that have legalized recreational marijuana — including its neighbor Illinois, which Newsweek reports is on pace to finish the year with more than $1 billion in cannabis sales.

According to Payne, it was local polling in 2019 that showed "a strong majority that supports legalizing the adult use of marijuana" — and which motivated the creation of Missourians For A New Approach. The campaign attempted to repeat the success of 2018 by placing a question on the November 2020 ballot, one asking voters to approve a constitutional amendment that would effectively treat cannabis the way the law treats alcohol.

Payne, who served as the 2020 initiative's campaign manager, says the surprising level of public support for adult-use cannabis was borne out in the streets — at least, initially.

"It was actually some of the easiest signature collection that I've ever been a part of," he recalls. "Right up to the point that it became just absolutely impossible."

Indeed, while the pandemic shut down the country, it was devastating for the petitioners whose entire jobs involved targeting gatherings to collect signatures. Suddenly, no one was gathering outside — and no one wanted strangers approaching them with random pens to touch and breath on.

"We tried to continue doing it to some extent," Payne notes, though it became clear by mid-April that the campaign wouldn't get anywhere close to the 160,000 signatures it needed to collect by May in order to make the ballot.

"There was no reasonable path to gain those signatures, so we decided to pull the plug on this and just look to look to 2022," he says. "It was a very difficult decision."

But the extra time has given the campaign months to draft a better proposal for voters, says Dan Viets, who sits on the initiative's draft committee and also serves as a Missouri state coordinator for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

Among the provisions that have changed since 2020, Viets says that "the expungement provisions in this draft are going to be far broader, far more comprehensive, and far more helpful" — and adds, "Some of the other provisions related to discrimination and employment, I would say they are also some the most important things that we've incorporated into this."

Another plus for the 2022 version? Viets says it won't just be looking forward to an adult-use industry, but also incorporating lessons learned over the past months as Missouri's burgeoning cannabis industry has gotten off the ground.

"There are so many important aspects of this initiative that were not in that one two years ago," Viets continues. "It's been frustrating how long it's taken, but I am almost thankful for the delay."

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