By: Cecil King
Activists Moving Missouri Medical Cannabis Initiative Forward
New Approach Missouri’s (NAM) medical marijuana initiative is gaining momentum. Following a series of sequential kickoff events across the Show-Me State during the last week of January 2017 and into February, NAM organizers successfully established a statewide network of trained activist volunteers to gather signatures for the 2018 medical cannabis initiative.
NAM campaign manager John Payne indicated in a memorandum to volunteers on Jan. 27 that there were already “around 200 volunteers in the field and well over 1,000 signatures collected,” all within just a few days of the first kickoff event. Petitioner training events were held in Springfield, Kansas City, Columbia and St. Louis.
The number of volunteers and the signatures they will be gathering will rapidly increase in the coming weeks. NAM scheduled additional volunteer training events in Springfield, Saint Charles, Independence, Springfield, Sedalia, Joplin, Camdenton, Osage Beach, Rolla and Columbia.
Training volunteers to gather signatures early in the year and as quickly as possible is NAM’s strategy to build momentum and rally cannabis legalization activists.
“Everywhere we held an event, the enthusiasm was overwhelming,” offered Payne, “we are continuing to add events as quickly as reasonably possible.” Social media along with regular status updates posted on the NAM website alert activists across the state to training and signature gathering opportunities.
The campaign will need roughly the same amount of signatures, 168,000, as were gathered during the 2016 campaign. An exact figure from the Missouri Secretary of State is pending. The NAM campaign suffered an inordinate amount of invalidated signatures thrown out by election officials in 2016.
2018 will be different according to NAM volunteers. The 2016 campaign only ran for about four months and gathered just under 250,000 signatures, but the 2018 campaign will run for a full 18 months until the first week of May in 2018. Paid signature gathering firms may be employed later during the campaign depending upon fund-raising activities and budget.
Payne said they are moving forward quickly and fanning out across the state. “We hope to have more than 1,000 volunteer petitioners trained and gathering signatures by spring, but that’s only possible with sustained support,” from contributions and supporters.
According to cannabis industry data analytics firm New Frontier Data, public opinion has turned towards strongly supporting cannabis legalization after victories during the 2016 election. Recent nationwide polling by the firm found the following:
- 86% of Americans believe that cannabis has valid medical uses.
- 71% of Americans disagree that cannabis users should be treated like criminals.
- 70% of Americans disagree that cannabis users should be subject to arrest.
- 69% of respondents agree that legalizing and taxing cannabis will raise valuable revenue for government.
- 60% agree legalizing cannabis will save government from law enforcement expenses.
- 56% of Americans agree that government should track cannabis usage.
- 51% of Americans do not consider cannabis to be dangerous.
- 51% agree that the public has enough information to make informed choices about cannabis.
- 49% of Americans would be more likely to consider using cannabis if legalized.
- 39% of Americans do not consider cannabis to be highly addictive (more than the 34% who did, or 28% who neither agreed nor disagreed).
Hopeful Missouri cannabis businesses entrepreneurs can learn more about industry trends in the New Frontier Cannabis Industry Annual Report: 2017 Legal Marijuana Outlook.
Missouri’s neighboring state Illinois has successfully established a medical cannabis program. Bordering Missouri on the south, Arkansas also passed medical cannabis in the last election cycle bringing the total number of cannabis legal states to 28. NAM activists hope to make Missouri number 29 in 2018.