SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — A Cole County judge has ruled in favor of the Missouri Secretary of State, dismissing a lawsuit over the recreational marijuana proposal on Missouri’s November ballot.
If approved by voters, the measure would allow those ages 21 and older to buy and grow marijuana for personal consumption and automatically erase records of some past marijuana-related crimes.
An anti-drug group argued signatures certified at the last minute were invalid because they were verified by the state instead of county election officials.
The judge dismissed the lawsuit because of lack of jurisdiction, arguing the plaintiff, Joy Sweeney, did not provide sufficient evidence she is a Missouri resident.
Sweeney on Thursday testified remotely from her second home in Alexandria, Virginia, that she still owns property in Missouri and is registered to vote in Missouri. But the judge said her testimony came too late because her lawyers had already finished submitting evidence.
But Cole County Circuit Judge Cotton Walker noted he would have ruled against Sweeney’s lawsuit even if she had proven her Missouri residency.
The judge said the signatures gathered were valid in six of Missouri’s eight congressional districts, which is what’s needed to get an initiative petition on the ballot.
In her lawsuit, Sweeney argued Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft overstepped his role when he re-checked and validated petition signatures last month. Ashcroft’s move came after a lawyer for the pro-pot campaign raised concerns that some signatures from registered voters had been incorrectly tossed out.
Sweeney said it should have been the county’s job to certify signatures.
But in his ruling, Walker said Ashcroft’s review was legal and “the secretary retains the ultimate authority as to whether the petition is sufficient.”
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