As the signing deadline nears, Missouri’s marijuana legalization campaign looks for money, recruiter | marijuana

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri’s campaign to fully legalize marijuana said this week that it needs twice as many signatures as it has already collected to guarantee a spot in the Nov. 8 vote.

The Legal Missouri 2022 campaign has about 170,000 valid signatures from across the state to submit by May 8 in about three weeks.

Campaign supporters called on cannabis entrepreneurs to donate money and staff to the effort in a message Wednesday via an industry newsletter.

“We have already collected and processed over 170,000 signatures,” the newsletter reads, “but we need to collect at least that many more over the remaining weeks to ensure we have cushion and certainty that we stand on the vote.” “

Elsewhere, the message said that “the effort will require collecting nearly 300,000 signatures to secure a spot on the ballot.”

Legal Missouri campaign manager John Payne told the Post-Dispatch Friday that the campaign is expected to receive its 200,000th signature this weekend. He said the reception made it “almost certain” that the campaign would come to a vote.

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But the industry newsletter did not express this confidence.

“To ensure our mutual success, we need more local people to carry the petition and ask voters to sign,” it said.

The newsletter asks each pharmacy to assign one full-time employee to prospecting five days a week for the next three weeks. It said farmers should appoint two full-time employees to collect signatures.

The campaign also wanted more money.

“Whether it’s $500 or $5,000, please donate today,” Proper Cannabis CEO John Pennington said in the newsletter. “If you are reaping the rewards of this industry and wider expansion through adult use, then you should DONATE NOW.”

New Growth Horizon, trading as Proper Cannabis, is a key supporter of Legal Missouri and has made $340,000 in major donations to the effort since last year, according to a review of Missouri Ethics Committee records.

Other notable donors include Good Day Farm, which pledged $700,000 to the effort, and BD Health Ventures, which operates as Flora Farms, donated nearly $350,000, according to ethics committee records.

Legal Missouri on Thursday reported a total of $230,000 in large donations from six different entities, including Earth City-based BeLeaf Medical, which donated $50,000.

As of Friday morning, the campaign reported $735,000 in new contributions from seven companies, including $200,000 from Focus Partners Manchester, which operates as Greenlight.

The newsletter urged business owners to familiarize themselves with the petition, which would allow current medical marijuana companies to convert their licenses to full licenses.

“Existing license holders could transform purely medical facilities into businesses that serve both medical patients and adult consumers,” the newsletter reads.

The newsletter also urged pharmacies to sign up as signature “hubs” for the campaign, noting that “Southwest Missouri in particular is a place where we need to increase our participation.”

To cast the ballot, candidates must collect signatures from at least 8% of voters in six of Missouri’s eight congressional districts — or about 170,000 valid signatures in total.

Many cannabis activists have mobilized against Legal Missouri, saying it is enshrining a “monopoly” created with the introduction of the medical marijuana program in 2020.

The state Department of Health and Senior Services initially issued 338 licenses to sell, grow, and process marijuana, the minimum required under the voter-approved constitutional amendment authorizing the program in 2018.

“If you live in Missouri’s 7th congressional district, we need your help!” Eapen Thampy, a lobbyist who pleaded guilty in 2020 to federal marijuana distribution charges, testified in email blasts cannabis activists.

“If there are any individuals or companies collecting signatures for this corrupt monopoly campaign, please share this information with them and ask them to stop!” he told recipients.

The Missouri Medical Cannabis Trade Association, or MoCannTrade, rejects the notion that the medical marijuana industry is restricted in a way that impairs patient access.

In a press release last week, MoCannTrade touted monthly pharmacy sales, which surpassed $30 million for the first time in March. The group attributed the increase to “patient-friendly” prices as more stores open and more products become available.

According to MoCannTrade, 188 pharmacies were open across the state last week — more than triple the number in Illinois, which had 56 pharmacies open for both adult and medical customers.

At the other end of the spectrum, Oklahoma, derided by critics as the “wild west” of cannabis legalization, had issued more than 2,000 medical marijuana dispensary licenses through January, according to state figures.

In Missouri, Thampy and others support the Cannabis Freedom Act, currently before the House Rules Committee, chaired by Rep. Phil Christofanelli, R-St. Peter.

As it stands, the law requires the state to issue twice as many licenses as it does under the medical marijuana program.

Christofanelli said the legislation “will come to a vote on Tuesday”.

With four weeks left in the legislative session, the plan has yet to clear the House of Representatives to advance to the Senate.

In the Senate, where dysfunction reigns, it would be easier for opponents to kill the bill by filibustering — if GOP lawmakers even decide to bring the legislation up for debate.

The legislation is House Bill 2704.

Originally posted at 11am Friday April 15th.

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