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Missouri judge blocks attempt to kick legalization off ballot

By Max Savage Levenson

Update: On Tuesday, Sept. 13, the Missouri State Supreme Court rejected an appeal of the lower court’s decision (discussed below) to dismiss the lawsuit challenging the appearance of a statewide legalization measure on the ballot. Missouri voters will now decide the issue for themselves at the voting booth on Nov. 8.

On Friday, Sept. 9, opponents of Missouri’s adult-use cannabis initiative suffered a major setback when a state judge rejected their lawsuit to remove the measure from the November ballot.

The lawsuit, led by an anti-drug activist named Joy Sweeney—with support from the Protect Our Kids PAC—made claims regarding both the initiative itself and the state’s process of counting and validating the signatures gathered earlier this year to place it on the ballot.

For one, they claimed that the initiative—which is set to appear on the ballot as Amendment 3—violates a requirement that ballot measures only cover a single subject. Prohibitionists have successfully used this argument to kill legalization measures in South Dakota and Nebraska.

The lawsuit also accused Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft of improperly validating signatures gathered in favor of the campaign.

In his ruling, Cole County Judge Cotton Walker dismissed both accusations. Walker further ruled that Sweeney did not have sufficient evidence to prove that she actually resides in Missouri, and thus did not have legal standing to plead her case.

“Foremost, 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,” Ashcroft said in a statement following the ruling. “We followed the law — we did everything right.”

John Payne, who led the Legal Missouri legalization campaign, celebrated the news. “We are thrilled that Missourians will have the opportunity to pass Amendment 3 in November, which will allow law enforcement to better focus on violent crime, while bringing millions in new revenue to Missouri,” Payne said in a statement.

The battle to put (and keep) legalization on the Missouri ballot ain’t over yet, though.

Sweeney’s legal team immediately filed an appeal to the ruling. For one, they claim they have evidence that Sweeny is in fact a Missouri resident.

The clock is ticking, however: Missouri officials must make a final decision by this Tuesday, September 13.

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