We had hopes that Missouri would have the chance to finally vote on whether or not medical marijuana should be legal. An initiative campaign run by New Approach Missouri had nearly qualified – until a judge upheld a court ruling that over 10,000 signatures were disqualified due to voters signing petitions for a county other than the one they are registered in. This technicality cost citizens the chance to allow medical marijuana for a number of medical conditions including cancer, epilepsy, PTSD and more.
Even after being disqualified at the last minute, activists in the state have not given up – if anything they have become more determined, with multiple initiatives being filed for the 2018 election already. So far, at least 15 different legalization proposals have been submitted to the Secretary of State that are awaiting the green light to start gathering signatures after a period of public comment, which is already open.
Unfortunately, even when activists are trying to get a head start on things, the opposition doesn’t rest either. Cole County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Richardson filed a petition last week with the Cole County Court which would prevent Secretary of State Jason Kander from certifying any of the ballot initiatives.
The petition cites all 15 of the legalization proposals that have been introduced so far, suggesting that they be declared unconstitutional, stating that Secretary of State’s actions “pose an immediate threat to the constitutional and initiative petition process” since it attempts to go against federal law.
Jack Cardetti, a spokesman for New Approach Missouri, said that Missouri Courts have already established long ago that lawsuits this early into the petitioning process are not valid, preferring to wait until voters have gotten a chance to have a say (gaining the needed number of signatures). It makes sense – at this point, the petitions have not even begun circulating, there is nothing close to a guarantee that any of these initiatives will actually make it to the 2018 ballot, so why bother wasting court resources and funding on something that is still only speculative?
“This is an incredible waste of public resources for a prosecutor to file a frivolous lawsuit that has no merit,” Cardetti said.
It’s good to see that activists in Missouri have not lost hope yet – of the 15 initiatives currently proposed, it’s likely that at least one will be able to get the required number of signatures. And after this past election fiasco, signature gatherers will likely be more careful about making sure that voters sign the petition for the county in which they are registered to vote. Hopefully the courts will stand by their previous opinion, that it is too early to worry about these petitions, giving them a chance to get to the signature gathering process.