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Legalize weed? Missouri marijuana backers will try to get question on 2020 ballot

Legalize weed? Missouri marijuana backers will try to get question on 2020 ballot

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JEFFERSON CITY — Proponents of recreational marijuana legalization in Missouri have launched a campaign to place a question on the state’s November ballot.

Backers will have to move fast. To make the November ballot, the campaign Missourians for a New Approach will have to turn in more than 160,000 signatures by May.

That gives campaign workers just three full months for signature collection; a medical marijuana campaign spent much more time in 2017 and 2018 gathering signatures.

“It’s gonna be a tough timeline,” said John Payne, the campaign manager for Missourians for a New Approach.

Missourians for a New Approach on Wednesday reported a $150,000 contribution from the Washington -based New Approach PAC. Payne said that money will go toward signature collection.

He said the campaign is paying the company FieldWorks to collect signatures, the same company that collected signatures for the 2018 medical marijuana campaign.

Payne said “hundreds” of FieldWorks canvassers have already been collecting signatures for a Medicaid expansion ballot question, meaning the “capacity” to mount a serious recreational marijuana campaign is already in place, he said.

The 160,000 signatures need to be collected in six of eight congressional districts. Payne said canvassers would target the 1st and 2nd districts, which take in St. Louis city and surrounding suburbs, as well as the 3rd, 5th, 6th and 7th districts.

The campaign on Thursday reported $80,000 in contributions, including $25,000 from Earth City-based BeLeaf Medical, which earlier this month won three cultivation licenses to grow medical marijuana. The company also won five medical marijuana dispensary licenses.

New Approach’s petition would legalize adult use of marijuana for those 21 or older.

The state would tax sales at 15%, with the proceeds going to veterans, highways and drug addiction treatment.

People with marijuana convictions would also be able to apply for sentence reductions and conviction expungement. The petition would require local voter approval to ban dispensaries.

Fiscal analyses of the proposal estimate the program would generate between $93 million and $155 million for state coffers annually.

Running the program would cost the state $21 million initially and then $6 million a year.

“It’s time we stop treating adults who use cannabis responsibly like criminals,” said Dan Viets, a long-time legalization advocate and chair of the campaign. “We should tax and regulate marijuana like we do alcohol.”

Missouri is in the process of launching its medical marijuana program, approved by voters in 2018. Missouri would be the 12th state to legalize marijuana for recreational use.

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