- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 9, 2015

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - A campaign committee in support of medical marijuana in Missouri has hired a prominent political consultant and started raising money for the cause, signs that a medical pot proposal might have a serious chance of making it on the 2016 ballot.

Jack Cardetti, who worked on successful campaigns for Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon and Secretary of State Jason Kander, debuted in his new role as a consultant for New Approach Missouri during a game-day fundraiser for the marijuana advocacy group Show-Me Cannabis this week at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

New Approach Missouri was established in April and the committee had about $26,000 to spend on a campaign as of the end of June, campaign finance reports show. Show-Me Cannabis executive director and treasurer John Payne said his group plans to donate money and time to New Approach Missouri.

Fundraising is key. Efforts to legalize medical and recreational marijuana in Missouri failed in 2012 and 2014 because too few voters signed petitions to get the measures on ballots. Payne said he expects it will cost roughly $1 million to get the measure on a ballot, which includes the expense of hiring signature collectors.

“The real test of whether this will be successful or not, isn’t … so much public support. I think we have the public support,” Payne said. “Can we raise the money to get it on the ballot? I think that’s our biggest hurdle.”

Opponents of efforts to make Missouri the 24th state to legalize medical marijuana are watching the campaign’s progress.

Jason Grellner, vice president of the National Narcotic Officers’ Associations’ Coalition, doesn’t believe there’s enough voter support to pass a marijuana measure in Missouri and he said previous efforts “failed dismally.” But groups including law enforcement, clergy, educators and business owners plan to band together if the proposal starts building “any sort of momentum,” he said.

“We are a somewhat conservative state, and I think people are starting to see through news reports what is going on in Colorado is not all what was promised in Colorado,” Grellner said, referring to one of the states that allow medical marijuana.

Payne said supporters are aiming to submit a proposal to the secretary of state’s office later this month for review. If approved, the campaign can start collecting signatures.

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