JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A proposal to allow medical marijuana in Missouri won't go to voters this year because of an insufficient number of valid signatures, a judge ruled Wednesday.
Cole County Circuit Judge Daniel Green's decision backed those by St. Louis-area election authorities, who threw out thousands of petition signatures; in some cases, people signed sheets labeled for counties in which they weren't registered to vote.
Proposed constitutional amendments must receive signatures from at least 8 percent of registered voters in six of the state's eight congressional districts in order to go to voters. Secretary of State Jason Kander previously said the measure fell 2,242 signatures short in the 2nd District covering part of the St. Louis area.
Attorneys for New Approach Missouri and others supporting the proposal argued in court that 2,219 invalidated signatures should be counted, which would still leave them 23 signatures short. Proponents were relying on another 144 contested signatures to also be counted, although those were found after a court deadline last week.
A spokesman for New Approach Missouri has said it likely won't appeal the ruling because of time constraints. Absentee voting begins next Tuesday.
Green upheld a state law that says signatures shall be submitted on petition sheets by county and can't be counted if placed under the incorrect county. Among the petition signatures at issue were 509 from registered voters who were listed in the right congressional district but the wrong county. Because of that, he said, supporters lacked enough valid signatures for the measure to make the ballot and a line-by-line comparison would be unnecessary.
The measure would have imposed a 4 percent sales tax on medical marijuana, set up a licensing program with fees for marijuana growers, manufacturers and retailers and allowed approved patients to grow up to six plants for their personal use. Proceeds from medical marijuana sales that didn't go toward administrative expenses would have gone to the Missouri Veterans Commission for veterans' health care and nursing home services.
New Approach Missouri spokesman Jack Cardetti said Tuesday in advance of Green's ruling that the group will continue its push in the future to make medical marijuana legal.
Nine states will vote on marijuana initiatives in November, meaning the election could mark a major moment in the pro-marijuana movement. Voter approval in Arkansas, Florida, Montana or North Dakota would make medical marijuana legal in a majority of states. Meanwhile, the number of states allowing recreational marijuana could more than double based on initiatives in Arizona, California, Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada.