Judge tosses suit against Missouri recreational pot measure

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri judge on Friday tossed out a lawsuit that sought to knock a recreational marijuana proposal off the Nov. 8 ballot.

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.

Cole County Circuit Judge Cotton Walker ruled that the plaintiff, Joy Sweeney, did not prove she’s a Missouri resident, which would have been required for her lawsuit to continue.

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. Walker said her testimony came too late because her lawyers had already finished submitting evidence in the case.

But Walker noted that he would have ruled against Sweeney's lawsuit even if she had proven her Missouri residency.

In Missouri, proponents of a constitutional amendment need to gather a certain number of signatures from registered voters to get initiatives on the ballot.

Sweeney claimed that the secretary of state’s office overstepped its bounds by re-checking voter signatures, which is typically done by local election officials to make sure signees are properly registered to vote.

Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft's office re-checked petition signatures for the recreational marijuana proposal last month after a lawyer for the pro-pot campaign raised concerns that some signatures from registered voters had been incorrectly tossed out as invalid, which the office confirmed after a review.

In his ruling, Walker wrote that Ashcroft's review of the signatures was legal and that he was right to confirm that the campaign gathered enough valid signatures for the measure to be put on the ballot.

Summer Ballentine, The Associated Press