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Photo Credit: New Approach Montana

Medical marijuana has been legal in Montana since 2004, but residents will now have a chance to vote for the legalization of adult-use cannabis in November.

The Montana Secretary of State last week certified two complementary petitions — Initiative 190 and Constitutional Initiative 118 — that, if passed, would legalize and tax cannabis products for adults over the age of 21.

Backed by New Approach Montana, the legalization measures aim to establish a regulated adult-use cannabis market in Big Sky Country.

To get on the November ballot, the activist group submitted a combined 130,000-plus raw signatures in June.

“This was a very challenging signature drive, and we are so thankful for the Montanans who carried the petitions and all the voters who signed them,” campaign spokesman Pepper Peterson said via a news release.

The group turned in over 52,000 signatures in support of I-190, a statutory initiative that allows adults over the age of 21 to purchase and consume cannabis and establishes a 20% tax on nonmedical marijuana.

Another 80,000-plus signatures in support of CI-118 — a constitutional initiative that would set the legal minimum age for purchasing, consuming, and possessing marijuana at 21 — were also submitted.

The group only needed to submit 25,468 voter signatures in order to qualify I-90 for the 2020 ballot, while nearly 51,000 were required for the constitutional amendment.

Nevertheless, the impressive collection figures indicates a groundswell of support for cannabis legalization in Montana.

“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,” Peterson said.

Indeed, a fiscal note outlining the potential impact of marijuana legalization projects annual revenue of $38.5 million by 2025.

For its part, New Approach Montana has said that legalizing cannabis could generate $129 million in new tax revenue in five years.

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Photo Credit: New Approach Montana

Under I-90, Montana’s Department of Revenue would “license and regulate the cultivation, transportation, and sale of marijuana and marijuana-infused products,” according to a summary of the ballot issue. The DOR would also be tasked with inspecting “premises where marijuana is cultivated and sold.”

Meanwhile, 10.5% of the tax revenue would be directed to Montana’s General Fund, while the remainder would be “dedicated to accounts for conservation programs, substance abuse treatment, veterans’ services, healthcare costs, and localities where marijuana is sold.”

Passage of I-90 would also allow individuals currently serving a prison sentence for “an act permitted by I-190” to apply for an expungement of the conviction.

In addition to generating new tax revenue, creating jobs and creating an avenue for expungement, Peterson said “law enforcement will stop wasting time and resources arresting adults for personal marijuana possession, and instead focus on real crime.”

Montana is one of six states where voters will have an opportunity to legalize cannabis in November. Adult-use cannabis measures are also on the ballot in Arizona and New Jersey, while voters in Mississippi and Nebraska will have a chance to approve medical marijuana.

Meanwhile, South Dakota will become the first state to vote on both medical and recreational cannabis initiatives on the same ballot.

Currently, eleven states (Alaska, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington) and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational use. Meanwhile, 33 states have legalized medical cannabis sales and 47 states have reformed cannabis laws.

According to Ballotpedia, New Approach Montana raised $2.3 million through July to support the legalization campaign. 

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