via Flickr/Rafael Castillo
Twenty-five states consider this medicine. Missouri will keep treating it as a crime.
Missouri came this close to putting a medical marijuana initiative on the November ballot — but in the end it wasn't enough.
New Approach Missouri, the group which backed the ballot initiative campaign and took in more than $1 million dollars to fund its efforts, came up short by just 23 signatures
. This afternoon, Cole County Circuit Judge Daniel Green ruled that the Missouri Secretary of State and local election authorities acted properly when they invalidated hundreds of petition signatures that had been collected using the wrong county form. The ruling effectively kills any chance for the measure to make the ballot.
In a Facebook post published at 3 p.m., New Approach Missouri president Lee Winters promised that "the fight isn't yet done" while expressing regret over what must be a massive disappointment for volunteers and hopeful patients across Missouri.
The proposed ballot measure had sought to legalize pot for patients suffering from chronic illness and pain.
"Due to the judge's ruling that signatures collected on the wrong county petition pages would not be accepted as valid we were found to be short of the minimum required number of signatures," Winters wrote in the post
. "I am so incredibly sorry that we weren't yet able to deliver the outcome that so many are counting on us for. We are all still here and 2018 is right around the corner. This fight isn't yet done, not by a long shot."
In a statement, New Approach Missouri spokesman Jack Cardetti said Judge Green's final decision is expected as early as tomorrow. But considering the fact that absentee voting begins September 27, the group simply does not have enough time to mount an appeal. The fight is over.
In May, New Approach Missouri submitted more than the total required signatures to make the ballot, but local election authorities ultimately deemed thousands of the signatures invalid
. Last month, Secretary of State Jason Kander announced that more than 10,000 signatures from the state's 2nd Congressional District had to be thrown out, leaving New Approach Missouri 2,242 signatures short of required 32,337 target for that district.
On Monday, lawyers for New Approach Missouri argued that many of the signatures had been wrongly invalidated, and it submitted evidence to the Cole County Circuit Court showing that 2,219 signatures from the 2nd District should never have been thrown out.
That left the shortfall of 23 signatures. New Approach Missouri tried arguing that it was unconstitutional to invalidate an additional 144 petitions which had been entered on the wrong county form, but the group apparently failed to sway the judge.
Now, Missouri's legalization activists must rebound from a disheartening defeat. And while aiming for 2018 should provide some hope, the followup effort may prove to be an even tougher challenge. As we noted earlier today
, the high voter turnout in presidential election years usually provides the best chance for ballot initiatives to succeed. This was supposed to be medical cannabis' year in Missouri.
Instead the only people riding high in 2016 are Missouri's most prudish prosecutors
Follow Danny Wicentowski on Twitter at @D_Towski. E-mail the author at Danny.Wicentowski@RiverfrontTimes.com