Missouri court could decide fate of marijuana legalization measure next week as trial continues

“That’s the problem we’re stuck with. It’s time sensitive.

By Jason Hancock, Missouri Independent

Whether or not Missourians will vote in November on legalizing recreational marijuana could be determined next week.

Cole County Circuit Court Judge Cotton Walker faces a Sept. 13 deadline to rule on a lawsuit seeking to block the Marijuana Initiative petition from the ballot.

The lawsuit, which was filed last month, argues that the petition amends several sections of the Missouri Constitution in violation of single-subject rules and that its supporters failed to obtain the minimum number of signatures to warrant its inclusion in it. the November election.

In a brief hearing Thursday, attorneys representing plaintiffs, the state and the campaign against marijuana all agreed that time is running out for the court to make a decision.

“That’s the problem we’re stuck with,” Marc Ellinger, attorney for Legal Missouri 2022, the campaign behind the initiative petition. “It’s time sensitive.”

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Joy Sweeney, a Jefferson City resident who is also the assistant director of training, technical assistance and community outreach for Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, a group of community coalitions aimed at preventing substance use. and abuse.

Protect Our Kids PAC, a Colorado-based super PAC launched earlier this year that opposes drug legalization, is helping support the lawsuit.

Taylor White, the attorney representing Sweeney, said he would meet with the Missouri secretary of state’s office on Thursday afternoon to review records regarding the signature verification process.

This part of the trial challenge would take the longest, Ellinger said, and could take days of the court’s time.

With that in mind, Walker suggested a trial on the matter next week for four days. It would also allow time for each party to appeal any decision.

Last month, Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft (right) certified that the marijuana petition had garnered the required number of signatures and would appear on the November ballot as Amendment 3.

This came as a surprise to many longtime observers of the initiative’s petition process, as unofficial counts from local election officials showed the marijuana petition was insufficient in two congressional districts.

The lawsuit claims that Ashcroft “certified and counted the signatures that were marked by local election officials and, without this action, the Marijuana Initiative petition would not have had a sufficient number of valid signatures in six of the eight congressional districts”.

Ashcroft has not publicly explained the specific process that was used to overrule local election officials, but maintained that his office was following the law and fulfilling its legal obligation.

“There is an element of the legal challenge that may present certain facts depending on how the Secretary of State proceeded to verify signatures that were invalidated by local election officials,” White said Thursday. “There is certainly the question of whether or not the Secretary of State had the statutory power to do so. But one might wonder how reasonable the Secretary of State’s actions are, even if the Secretary of State had the power.

In order to qualify for the ballot, proposed constitutional amendments must garner enough signatures from registered voters to achieve 8% of the vote in the 2020 gubernatorial election in each of six of the state’s eight congressional districts.

Unofficial tabulations last month showed the Legal Missouri campaign had 2,275 signatures below that threshold. But after the campaign launched a review by the secretary of state’s office — a move that surprised longtime observers of the petition process — it had a surplus of signatures that qualified it for the ballot.

This story was first published by Missouri Independent.

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