After fearing signature shortfalls in two key congressional districts just two weeks ago, activists from Legal Missouri 2022 received certification from Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft on Aug. 9 for an adult-use cannabis ballot measure.

If all goes according to plan for the initiative’s proponents, Missouri will become the 20th state to legalize adult-use cannabis in the U.S. when voters go to the polls this November.

State officials certified 214,535 voter signatures—of roughly 400,000 submitted by Legal Missouri on May 8—from across Missouri’s eight congressional districts. That mark exceeded the required minimum of 184,720 valid signatures needed to appear on the ballot.

“Our statewide coalition of activists, business owners, medical marijuana patients and criminal justice reform advocates has worked tirelessly to reach this point and deserves all the credit,” Legal Missouri campaign manager John Payne said in a press release. “Our campaign volunteers collected 100,000 signatures, on top of paid signature collection. That outpouring of grassroots support among Missourians who want to legalize, tax and regulate cannabis made all the difference.”

The group’s victory on Tuesday came after early signs in the verification process indicated potential signature shortages on July 26. To qualify a petition for the ballot, an initiative effort must include valid signatures from 8% of voters in at least six of the eight congressional districts. Legal Missouri’s effort had only crossed the finish line in four districts at that time.

RELATED: Twice the Required Signatures Not Enough (Yet) For Missouri Cannabis Ballot Initiative

But Ashcroft announced Legal Missouri met that statutory requirement in issuing the sufficiency certificate on Aug. 9.

“I encourage Missourians to study and educate themselves on any ballot initiative,” Ashcroft said in a press release. “Initiative 2022-059 that voters will see on the November ballot is particularly lengthy and should be given careful consideration.”

The proposed constitutional amendment will be listed on the ballot as Amendment 3 and would allow Missourians ages 21 and older to possess, consume, purchase and cultivate cannabis.

The proposal would also allow individuals convicted of nonviolent cannabis-related offenses to petition to be released from incarceration and/or have their records automatically expunged.

If passed, the criminal justice reform aspect of the constitutional amendment would make Missouri the first state where voters took such a step, according to Legal Missouri. Current Missouri law requires those seeking to vacate their convictions to first petition the courts, an expensive and time-consuming process, according to the group.

The initiative’s automatic expungement provision will provide a clean slate to those whose past convictions become what the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law calls “the punishment that never ends.”

“Despite having fully paid their debt to society, they find that the impact of their record lingers, blocking educational, employment and housing opportunities,” the UMKC Law report concludes.

In addition, the ballot measure aims to establish a lottery to award licenses distributed equally to congressional districts. A new category of cannabis licenses would be reserved for small businesses, which, over time, would add a minimum of 144 licensed facilities to the existing 393 medical cannabis businesses in the state. Each of the state’s eight congressional districts would include at least six new retail licenses for adult-use cannabis under the new category.

Finally, the proposal would require a registration card for personal cultivation and impose a 6% tax on cannabis sales, among other provisions.

The 6% state sales tax would generate an estimated annual revenue of more than $40 million, according to a state auditor’s projection analysis. That money would cover the costs associated with implementing a state-licensed program as well as automatic expungement, with remaining funds allocated to veterans’ services, drug addictions treatment and Missouri’s public defender system.

Certification of the adult-use ballot initiative was delivered by the entire medical industry and activists, such as NORML and the NAACP, working together to push the signature drive across the finish line, Greenlight Dispensaries CEO John Mueller said in a statement to Cannabis Business Times.

A vertically integrated multistate operator, Greenlight has 15 retail operations in Missouri.

“In a tough COVID labor climate, it took the grassroots efforts of all parties to get the signatures needed to get this on the ballot,” Mueller said. “If approved by the Missouri voters in November, the constitution will extinguish the illicit market and regulate and tax an estimated $1 billion in cannabis in what many of the other MSOs formerly saw as ‘flyover country.’ Greenlight is well positioned to meet this consumer demand as cannabis regulation is spreading throughout the Midwest—with states like Missouri leading the way.”

A SurveyUSA poll released last month that included nearly 2,000 registered voters in the state, revealed that 62% of Missourians supported legalizing adult-use cannabis.

“Recent polling reveals that a majority of Missouri residents are ready and eager to end their state’s failed marijuana prohibition,” NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri said in a public statement Tuesday.

“That is because Missourians, like the overwhelming majority of all Americans, recognize that prohibition is a disastrous and draconian practice best cast into the waste bin of history,” Altieri said. “Voters in the Show Me State want a sensible policy of legalization and regulation, and that is why we expect that they will overwhelmingly vote ‘yes’ on this initiative this fall.”

The Legal Missouri initiative is supported by NORML, the ACLU of Missouri, Empower Missouri, Missouri Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Reale Justice Network, the St. Louis City, St. Louis County and St. Charles County chapters of the NAACP, and others.

According to Legal Missouri, additional highlights of the petition include:

Allows local governments to assess local sales taxes of up to 3%.Violent offenders and those whose offenses involved distribution to a minor or operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of cannabis would be ineligible for expungement.Allows local communities to opt out of adult-use retail sales through a vote of the people.Strengthen Missouri’s medical cannabis program. The petition extends the amount of time that medical cannabis patient and caregiver ID cards are valid from one to three years while keeping that cost low ($25). And the current $100 fee for Missourians who choose to grow medical cannabis at home will be reduced by half, with the expiration period also extended from one to three years.Provides employment discrimination protection for medical patients, preventing them from being denied employment or being disciplined or fired for off-the-job medical cannabis use.Seeks to broaden participation in the legal cannabis industry by small business owners and among historically disadvantaged populations, including those with limited capital, residents of high-poverty communities, service-disabled veterans and those previously convicted of non-violent cannabis offensesAdds nurse practitioners to the category of health care professionals who can issue medical cannabis recommendations to patients.]]>