Campaign group New Approach Montana has introduced two ballot initiatives that seek to legalize recreational marijuana use in Big Sky Country.
One is a statutory initiative that legalizes adult-use cannabis across the state and sets a framework to regulate sales, while the other is a constitutional amendment that sets the legal consumption age at 21. Together they form the proposed Montana Marijuana and Taxation Act.
The draft legislation includes a 20% excise tax and supporters say it would bolster the state’s coffers to the tune of $37 million per year by 2025. A chunk of that would go towards wildlife conservation programs.
In Montana a constitutional initiative needs more than 50,000 signatures to land on the November ballot, while a statutory initiative needs to gain more than 25,000 signatures. NAM is seeking volunteer captains for signature gathering.
“We can shift marijuana out of the illicit market and into licensed, regulated, and tax-paying businesses, and at the same time, we can create jobs and generate significant new revenue for the state,” said the group’s political director, Pepper Peterson, in a press release.
He added that the campaign group spoke to as many Montanans as possible before drafting the framework. It hopes it has come up with a plan that will appeal to the majority of the state, but first the offices of the Secretary of State and the Attorney General must scrutinize both initiatives before any signature gathering can commence.
Last year a similar proposal, HB 770, was killed off during this process as a taxation committee voted it down. It cited a report from Colorado – one of the first two states along with Washington to legalize recreational cannabis – stating that it led to increased hospital admissions and fatal traffic accidents.
Peterson said that NAM has covered every base and gone over the proposed legislation with a fine toothed comb, along with Montana lawyers with experience in ballot initiative drafting and litigation, to vet the initiatives and make sure they fully comply with regulations. He added that the group is confident of securing “widespread support” in a public vote at the November ballot.
Montana legalized medical cannabis back in 2004, and Peterson said NAM consulted industry insiders before compiling the draft legislation.