JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – New Approach Missouri, the political action committee arm of the marijuana advocacy group Show-Me Cannabis, hired prominent politico Jack Cardetti as a political consultant Wednesday.
Cardetti will help the organization with the process of getting an initiative petition onto the ballot that would make Missouri the 24th state to legalize of medical marijuana.
“The campaign committee was looking for a consultant that had statewide experience in Missouri elections, and we thought this was a timely issue,” Cardetti said. “We’re trying to give physicians and patients with serious and debilitating illnesses another medical option. Twenty-three states already allow for this option, and we think it’s really in the best interests of the patients. For some illnesses it could provide the treatment they need, and we don’t think Missouri should take that off the table.”
Cardetti has vast experience with statewide elections after working on successful campaigns for Gov. Jay Nixon and Secretary of State Jason Kander, and John Payne, the executive director and treasurer of Show-Me Cannabis, says the ability to do that in a more conservative state shows Cardetti’s prowess.
“He’s worked on a lot of statewide campaigns for Democrats in a state that has a 66 percent Republican legislature and he’s made these Democrats win,” Payne said.
Payne was quick to note that while some characterize marijuana reform as a left-wing issue, he sees it as nonpartisan, and Show-Me Cannabis may be proof of concept for that theory. The organization’s advisory board includes groups from the American Civil Liberties Union to the St. Louis Tea Party. Payne recognized that Cardetti’s ability to build relationships, regardless of political motivation, making him an asset to the cause.
“When I would ask people for references, Jack has one of the best reputations of anyone that I met in Missouri politics,” Payne said. “Everyone seems to like him.”
Working with initiative petitions on a nonpartisan level also appealed to Cardetti because he likes the ability to engage with a larger part of the electorate than he would in a race between a Democrat and a Republican, noting that the fight really is only about engaging about 40 percent of voters.
“You don’t see the partisan divides you see in other races,” Cardetti said. “On ballot initiaives, almost all of the voters are up for grabs. It’s an exciting campaign to be a part of.”
Payne was also impressed by Cardetti’s planning that put him over the top of other candidates for the position.
“We interviewed a lot of consultants, and a lot of people you would think of as the top consultants in Missouri,” Payne said. “[Cardetti] talked about the concrete steps for what needs to happen to run an initiative petition… a step-by-step process of what we need to do. Everyone had the experience and the reputation but that set Jack apart.”
The first part of that process will relate to fundraising, something that has plagued Show-Me Cannabis in the past, but Cardetti is confident the group will have the grassroots support to raise money to hire people to circulate petitions, manage volunteers and, most importantly, get signatures.
“Raising those funds is a daunting task, but it’s something the committee will work hard on,” Cardetti said. “There is a pathway here, and we’re studying what’s worked in other states.”
For now, the partnership seems mutually beneficial on more than just a financial level; Show-Me Cannabis gets one of the most influential political consultants in Missouri and Cardetti gets to focus on a cause he can support. By the end of 2016, he expects more than half the states in the country to have at least a medical marijuana law on the books.
“We want we want Missouri to be one of them,” Cardetti said.