Montana voters to decide a pair of ballot initiatives that would legalize marijuana in November

Montana voters will decide an initiated constitutional amendment, CI-118, and an initiated state statute, I-190, that, together, would legalize marijuana in the state. CI-118 would amend the state constitution to allow for the legislature or a citizen initiative to establish minimum legal ages for the possession, use, and purchase of marijuana. I-190 would legalize the possession and use of marijuana for adults over the age of 21, impose a 20% tax on marijuana sales, require the Department of Revenue to develop rules to regulate marijuana businesses, and allow for the resentencing or expungement of marijuana-related crimes. CI-118 must be approved in order for I-190 to be fully enacted. The initiatives are sponsored by New Approach Montana.

On July 17, New Approach Montana reported that county clerks had accepted 52,315 signatures from the 80,000 raw signatures submitted for CI-118 and 35,458 signatures from the 52,000 signatures submitted for I-190. July 17 was the deadline for county clerks to submit the verified petitions to the secretary of state for final verification. On August 13, the secretary of state announced that the petitions contained a sufficient number of signatures to qualify for the ballot. As a constitutional amendment, CI-118 required 50,936 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot. I-190 required 25,468 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot.

This will be the first time Montanans will vote on recreational marijuana. In 2004, Montana voters approved I-148, a medical marijuana initiative, with 61.81% of the vote. In 2011, the state legislature voted to enact regulations limiting the number of patients a provider could service. The law was repealed in 2016 with the approval of I-182.

Pepper Petersen, a spokesperson for New Approach Montana, said, “Our research has always shown that a majority of Montanans support legalization, and now voters will have the opportunity to enact that policy, which will create jobs and generate new revenue for our state. It also means that law enforcement will stop wasting time and resources arresting adults for personal marijuana possession, and instead focus on real crime.”

As of July 2020, New Approach Montana had raised $2.3 million in cash and in-kind contributions in support of both initiatives. The next campaign finance deadline is August 30, 2020. The North Fund was the largest contributor with $1.2 million in contributions. New Approach PAC contributed over $940,000.

Eleven states and Washington, D.C., have legalized the possession and use of recreational marijuana. Nine states legalized marijuana through the ballot initiative process. Vermont and Illinois legalized marijuana through the legislative process.

Recreational marijuana measures are also certified for November 2020 ballots in Arizona, New Jersey, and South Dakota. South Dakota and Mississippi voters will also decide medical marijuana measures. Nebraskans for Sensible Marijuana Laws submitted signatures for a 2020 medical marijuana initiative.

CI-118 and I-190 will be the only initiatives on the Montana ballot. Three other legislatively referred ballot measures will also appear on the ballot. Montana LR-130 would remove local governments’ power to regulate the carrying of permitted concealed weapons. It would continue to allow local governments to regulate unpermitted concealed weapons and unconcealed weapons in public occupied buildings. Montana C-46 and C-47 would amend constitutional language regarding initiative signature distribution requirements to match current practices.

From 1996 through 2018, an average of between four and five measures appeared on the ballot during even-numbered years in Montana, 62% of which were approved.

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