New Approach Montana, a statewide campaign working to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana, submitted two complementary 2020 ballot initiatives to the state government for review. The first is a statutory initiative that would legalize marijuana in Montana for adults aged 21 and over and establish a regulatory framework for cultivation and sales. The second is a constitutional amendment that would allow the legal minimum age for marijuana consumption to be 21.
“Montanans support legalizing marijuana and setting the minimum age at 21,” said Pepper Petersen, spokesperson for New Approach Montana. “Our initiatives will give voters the opportunity to approve those laws at the ballot box on Election Day. It’s time for Montana to stop wasting law enforcement resources that could be spent fighting more serious crime. We can shift marijuana out of the illicit market and into licensed, regulated, and tax-paying businesses. At the same time, we can create jobs and generate significant new revenue for the state.”
The initiatives were hand-delivered to the Secretary of State and the Legislative Services Division, starting a review process that will also involve the Attorney General and the Governor’s budget director.
New Approach Montana is sponsoring both initiatives, which were drafted with the assistance of Montana voters, stakeholders, and policy experts.
“These initiatives are the result of a collaborative and diligent drafting process,” said Petersen. “We held seven community listening sessions across the state and received input from hundreds of Montana voters. We’ve spoken with community, church, and tribal leaders. Montana lawyers with experience in ballot initiative drafting and litigation have carefully vetted the details. We’ve received input from Montanans with expertise on our state’s existing medical marijuana program, civil rights, and fiscal policy. We have covered every base.”
The statutory initiative establishes a legalization policy that builds upon Montana’s existing medical marijuana framework.
“It was important to us that Montana entrepreneurs and businesses would be in a strong position to compete in the legalization market, and our initiative ensures that will be the case,” said Petersen. “We have every confidence that this uniquely Montanan approach to marijuana legalization, regulation, and taxation will gain widespread support at the ballot box in November.”
After the Attorney General has approved the final petitions, New Approach Montana must gather 25,468 signatures to qualify the statutory initiative for the 2020 ballot and 50,936 signatures to qualify the constitutional initiative.
New Approach Montana determined that it was necessary to amend the state constitution if Montana was going to follow the example of every other legal state by restricting marijuana to those 21 years and older.
“There is strong precedent for changing the Montana constitution to restrict marijuana to those 21 years and older,” said Petersen. “As a state, we amended the constitution in 1986 to allow the legislature to restrict alcohol sales to those 21 and over. Our 2020 constitutional amendment adds just two words to existing constitutional language that addresses alcohol, so that marijuana can be age-restricted in the same manner.”
The statutory initiative allows possession of up to an ounce by adults aged 21 and older, establishes the Montana Department of Revenue as the regulatory agency, gives Montana medical marijuana providers first entry into the expanded marijuana market, and reduces the tax on medical marijuana from two percent to one percent.
The initiative sets a 20% sales tax on marijuana (this would not apply to medical marijuana) and allocates the tax revenue to land, water, and wildlife conservation programs, veteran services, substance abuse treatment, long-term health care, local governments where marijuana is sold, and general revenue for the state.
“Our campaign’s initial analysis found that a 20% marijuana sales tax would generate over $37 million per year in new revenue by 2025,” Petersen said.