The organization collecting petition signatures to legalize recreational marijuana in Missouri said the benefits of the law could be high for the state.
Legal Missouri 2022 plans to turn in more than twice the required signatures necessary to get the issue on the November ballot. If the petition is approved and voters pass the new law, the financial benefits for the state could reach hundreds of million of dollars.
The organization has collected well beyond the (about) 172,000 necessary signatures to get the measure on a ballot, campaign spokesman Alan Zagier said.
It already has more than 325,000 (and will continue to collect signatures until the last minute)," Zagier said Thursday.
"We have what we consider a really great performance -- and really strong support from voters across the state," he said. "We don't want to take anything for granted. We plan to collect signatures until the last possible minute to make sure we're on the ballot."
Organizers are expected to turn in their signatures at the Sunday deadline.
Earlier in the campaign, officials said they had collected signatures from every congressional district in the state.
The organization sent out a news release Wednesday, touting successes in signature gathering across Missouri.
"From Hannibal to Joplin, St. Joseph to Springfield, St. Louis, Kansas City and all points between, voters across our great state are ready to make Missouri the 20th to regulate, tax and legalize marijuana for adult use," campaign manager John Payne said in the release.
Payne added the campaign has collected a record signature count, but it doesn't intend to take any chances -- and will continue collecting signatures up until the very last minute.
The measure would allow anyone ages 21 and older to purchase, cultivate, possess and consume marijuana. A 6 percent retail sales tax would generate about $40.8 million in annual state revenue and at least $13.8 million for local revenues, according to the release.
"Based on current medical marijuana sales, though -- the market is on track to exceed $300 million this year -- the public fiscal benefit could potentially be four or five times higher," the release states.
Public revenue the program generates would pay for automatic expungements of past cannabis convictions. Nineteen states have already passed legalized recreational marijuana, but laws in only seven of those states expunge previous convictions.
The new law would allow the state to expand its licensed cannabis businesses by at least 144 facilities. New licenses would allow facility operators to both cultivate and manufacture cannabis products.
"Medical marijuana has been successful and beneficial," Zagier said. "It has been successful beyond most folks' expectations. We want to build on the medical cannabis program."
He said the initiative, if passed, adds to several aspects of the state's medical marijuana program.
It lengthens licenses from one to three years. The renewal period is tripled.
"Right now, the fee to grow at home is $100. That will be cut by half," Zagier said. "(Licenses to grow at home are) also extended from one to three years. The automatic expungement provision is essential to our whole proposal."