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Virus may doom Missouri recreational marijuana campaign

JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — The spread of the coronavirus has probably doomed an effort to get a proposal to legalize recreational marijuana in Missouri on the November ballot, according to organizers of the campaign.

With businesses closing, public gatherings restricted and more people staying at home because of the virus, it is harder to find voters to sign the petitions, said Dan Viets, chairman of the Missourians for a New Approach committee.

The campaign has collected 60,000 signatures. It needs to collect 170,000 signatures by May 3 to get the question of whether to legalize the use of marijuana for those 21 or older on the November ballot.

Campaign manager John Payne said that because of social distancing and other safety concerns, there was no practical way for campaign workers to gather the signatures. He said the campaign was exploring options and suggested the state could extend the deadline for turning in the signatures.

But Maura Browning, spokeswoman for Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, said Ashcroft had no authority to extend the deadline because the date was outlined in the Missouri Constitution.

Payne said the campaign would try to put a similar question on the 2022 ballot if the 2020 campaign ended.

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