Montana legalize marijuana vote ballot

Montana voters approved two marijuana legalization initiatives through the state’s ballot process at this year’s elections.

The first, Ballot Initiative I-190, is a statutory measure to legalize cannabis possession, use and cultivation as of January 1, 2021. Possession is limited at up to an ounce of marijuana flower, and up to eight grams of concentrate. Cultivation is limited to four mature plants and four seedlings per person, with a household limit of eight mature plants.

The second, CI-118, is a constitutional amendment to set the legal age for participation in the market at 21 and older. Each proposal garnered around 57 percent of the vote.

I-190 identifies Montana’s Department of Revenue as responsible for establishing and overseeing the legal cannabis market, with sales taxed at 20 percent. It must accept applications for licenses to grow, process and sell marijuana by January 1, 2022. Licenses can only be awarded to businesses owned by residents of Montana, and priority will initially be given to currently operating medical marijuana businesses looking to serve the recreational market.

The proposal earmarks half the revenue collected from legal cannabis sales for environmental conservation programs. The rest of the money will go towards veteran programs, substance misuse treatments, health care services and local government. Whatever remains is tied to the state’s general fund.

I-190 was subjected to a last-minute legal challenge in Montana’s Supreme Court just days before the election on the basis it violated the state Constitution by allocating funds to programs such as these. The Supreme Court judges didn’t give a ruling on the legal merits of the challenge, but said the plaintiff must first take their case to the lower courts.

I-190 allows individuals with non-violent marijuana related criminal records to apply for expungement through the Department of Revenue, while those currently serving time for such offenses can petition for a sentence reduction.

Finally, the measure allows for local jurisdictions to enact a moratorium on marijuana businesses in their localities, but this must be put to a vote.

Polling on the issue leading up to the election showed a healthy lead for the yes vote on each measure. Like in other Republican-leaning states at this year’s election, the marijuana legalization polls proved largely accurate.

“This result illustrates that support for adult-use marijuana legalization extends across geographic and demographic lines,” said NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri. “Marijuana legalization is not exclusively a ‘blue’ state issue, but an issue that is supported by a majority of all Americans—regardless of party politics.”

Aside from a late legal challenge, the group behind the complementary ballot initiatives, New Approach Montana, had to contend with the coronavirus outbreak during the signature-gathering phase of the ballot process, and suffered the setback of a state Supreme Court ruling that prevented the collection of signatures digitally.

Nonetheless, the campaign persevered and was approved by a clear majority of Montana’s residents. Including the three other states that approved a recreational marijuana legalization ballot question at this year’s election, fifteen states plus the District of Columbia have now legalized adult-use cannabis.

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