A Missouri judge has thrown out a lawsuit filed by opponents of cannabis reform, ruling that a voter initiative amendment to legalize recreational marijuana can stay on the ballot for the November election. Opponents of the bid to legalize adult-use cannabis filed suit to block the initiative last month. The suit came after Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft announced the measure had received enough signatures from registered voters to qualify for the general election ballot.
On Friday, Cole County Circuit Judge Cotton Walker dismissed the case filed against Ashcroft, saying the plaintiff did not have standing to sue after attorneys for Ashcroft and Legal Missouri 2020, the group backing the constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana, questioned her residency at a hearing on Thursday.
Walker also ruled against the plaintiff’s argument that Ashcroft improperly certified thousands of signatures that had previously been ruled invalid by local officials in Greene County. The judge found that Ashcroft had properly exercised his powers when he approved the legalization measure for the ballot.
“The secretary retains the ultimate authority as to whether the petition is sufficient,”
“Regardless of whether you’re for or against the issue, my office responded efficiently and appropriately to the thousands of signatures turned in,” Ashcroft said in a statement after Walker’s decision was revealed. “We did the right thing in certifying this measure to the ballot within the bounds of the constitution and the laws passed by the General Assembly,” he said. “We followed the law — we did everything right.”
Legal Action Filed Last Month in Missouri
The lawsuit was filed on August 19 on behalf of Jefferson City, Missouri resident Joy Sweeney, who serves as the deputy director of training, technical assistance and community outreach for Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, a partnership of community groups focused on
“Not only does the language deceive voters about the harms of legalization, it is in violation of state law and the Missouri Constitution,” Luke Niforatos, the CEO of Protect Our Kids PAC,
After the lawsuit was filed, John Payne, a spokesman for Legal Missouri 2020, said that it is the only initiative that had the public support necessary to collect enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.
“This lawsuit lacks merit and in less than three months Missouri will be the 20th state to regulate, tax and legalize cannabis,” said Payne.
JoDonn Chaney, a spokesman for the Missouri Secretary of State’s Office, said before the judge’s ruling the that the signature totals and certification process “speak for themselves.”
“The individuals responsible for submitting this (initiative petition) met the constitutional requirements as required by statute, therefore Secretary Ashcroft certified Amendment 3 to the ballot,” Chaney said. “The secretary followed the law and fulfilled his statutory duty and stands behind his certification.”
To qualify for the ballot in Missouri, initiative campaigns must collect enough signatures from registered voters to equal at least 8 percent of the votes cast in the 2020 gubernatorial election in a minimum of six of the state’s eight congressional districts.
Those backing the lawsuit noted that unofficial tabulations of the petition signatures conducted by local election officials last month showed the campaign was short by 2,275 signatures. But after backers of the petition requested a review of the total by the Secretary of State’s Office, officials determined that the campaign had collected enough signatures and Ashcroft certified the petition for the November ballot on August 9.
The legal action claimed that Ashcroft “certified and counted signatures that were marked through by the local election authorities and, absent this action, the marijuana initiative petition would not have had a sufficient number of valid signatures in six of eight congressional districts.”
Walker’s ruling clears the initiative for the ballot for the November election. If passed, the constitutional amendment would legalize cannabis for adults and authorize regulated recreational marijuana sales.