Present marijuana across the United States

Fresh off of a victory for medical marijuana activists, a campaign group is now trying to take Missouri one step further and legalize marijuana through a ballot initiative.

Missourians for a New Approach announced that it’s collecting signatures to get the initiative on the ballot.

According to a campaign official, the group will need about 170,000 signatures from registered voters.

“We’re basically getting petitions in people’s hands right now,” John Payne, the campaign manager for Missourians for a New Approach, said. “And then by May 3 we have to submit valid signatures to the (Missouri) Secretary of State’s office, and those have to be distributed across six of the eight congressional districts.”

Payne said his group plans to have a website up and running with the initiative language within a day or two.

If passed by voters, the initiative would become a constitutional amendment. The same process was used to pass medical marijuana in the state.

Payne said using an initiative effectively bypasses the state legislature, though the assembly could pass a concurrent resolution to place a modified initiative on the ballot.

“The exciting thing about this process is that citizens can actually go and write a law,” Payne said. “(They ) take it to the voters themselves without having to get the approval of the legislature.”

Payne told News-Press NOW that his group will employ both paid signature collectors and volunteers. During the medical marijuana initiative, Payne said the paid collectors likely collected more signatures than volunteers.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, a Washington state based political action committee donated $150,000 to the Missourians for a New Approach to pay for signature collectors.

Payne said the initiative would call for a tax of 15% on sales. The proceeds would be applied to infrastructure, veterans and to combat drug abuse.

Possession of marijuana would be restricted to adults 21 years of age and older.

Matt Hoffmann can be reached

at matt.hoffmann@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter:

@NPNowHoffmann.