JEFFERSON CITY — A new political action committee headed by a well-known Republican strategist is launching a campaign to oppose a question on the Nov. 8 ballot that would, if passed, legalize the recreational use of marijuana in Missouri.
Former state Rep. Scott Dieckhaus, a Republican political strategist from Franklin County, said Thursday a “broad-based coalition” has joined forces in an effort to defeat Amendment 3.
The Save Our State PAC was formed on Sept. 8 but hasn’t so far reported any large contributions, according to state ethics commission records.
The coalition brings together two groups that would normally be on opposite sides of the issue: Dieckhaus said the Save Our State PAC includes anti-legalization advocates and those who support legalization but oppose Amendment 3.
“We have people that are anti-legalization,” Dieckhaus said. “We also have people that are very pro-legalization but they feel that the current ballot initiative is not the right way to do it.”
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He said pro-legalization advocates feel Missourians are “enshrining corporatization of the market in the constitution, which is not the way that they would like to see this done.”
He said it was too early to release names of supporters, but Dieckhaus said law enforcement, banking, religious and medical organizations, as well as people within the cannabis industry opposed to the initiative, have joined the coalition.
In regard to fundraising, Dieckhaus said, “you’ll see some checks probably in the coming weeks.”
Legal Missouri, primarily funded by existing medical marijuana companies set to benefit from legalization, had spent nearly $6 million by the end of June, ending the most recent fundraising period with less than $50,000 on hand.
The campaign has since reported numerous large contributions.
Dieckhaus said Amendment 3 was not in a good position heading into the Nov. 8 election, citing a poll released Sept. 10 by Missouri Scout and Remington Research Group pegging support for the initiative at 43%.
“If I were to have a ballot initiative out there at this point in the election cycle, and no one has taken really any public shots at the initiative, I would hope to be polling at 60-plus percent before we have to take on any negative messaging,” Dieckhaus said. A more recent poll by Survey USA placed support for legalization at 62%, but Dieckhaus expressed doubts about those results.
“I don’t think they’re in a very good place at all,” he said. He said a lot of people supported medical marijuana in 2018 because people knew people with ailments who “could’ve benefited from medical marijuana.
“I think there are a lot of people that are opposed to recreational marijuana just on principle,” Dieckhaus said. “I think there are a lot of people opposed to this particular ballot initiative and what it does.”
John Payne, campaign manager for Legal Missouri, was dismissive of Dieckhaus’ effort.
“It should come as no surprise that a Jefferson City insider is trying to prevent Missouri from becoming the 20th state to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana. Our grassroots support in every corner of this state has put us in a very strong position to pass the legalization and expungement measure in November, so that law enforcement can focus on fighting violent and serious crime,” Payne said in an emailed statement.
Grumbling over Amendment 3 hasn’t stopped under the Capitol Dome.
Rep. Ron Hicks, R-Defiance, filed his Cannabis Freedom Act during the ongoing special session on tax relief, but Gov. Mike Parson said he wouldn’t open up debate on the issue even though he called Amendment 3 a “disaster.”
Criticism of the question has been bipartisan. The Missouri Democratic Party issued a press release this week saying its state committee wasn’t endorsing or opposing Amendment 3, citing common complaints.
“Democrats have concerns about the expungement provisions laid out in the amendment, as well as making it difficult for those who do not currently have a license to enter the industry,” the party said.