Montana cannabis activists submit adequate number of signatures for adult-use initiative

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Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

A pro-pot group stands a good chance at getting a recreational cannabis legalization initiative in Montana featured on the November ballot. Approximately 52,000 signatures have been collected by New Approach Montana — a Helena-based group 

A request to submit signatures electronically amid the COVID-19 pandemic was rejected in May. However, this did not deter the group from collecting a sufficient amount of signatures for the campaign to push forward. Lobbyists belonging to the group began gathering signatures by other means on May 9. 

The total number of unverified signatures – which is more than double the amount needed – were submitted to county clerks by the group on June 19, 2020. If the November ballot initiative includes this proposal for recreational cannabis legalization in Montana, a taxed and regulated adult-use market would be launched statewide.

How would New Approach Montana’s ballot initiative create a regulated market?

If New Approach Montana are successful, their initiative – Montana I-190, the Marijuana Legalization and Tax Initiative – could feature on the ballot as a proposed state statute. November 3, 2020 is the important day on which lobbyists hope that their initiative will gain the attention it deserves. 

Should the initiative for recreational cannabis legalization in Montana be featured on the 2020 ballot, individuals aged 21 and over could purchase adult-use cannabis legally. A 20 percent non-medical tax rate would also be imposed on legal sales in Montana, where the industry would be licensed and regulated by the state Department of Revenue.

Business license applicants could get involved in Montana’s recreational cannabis market from October 1, 2021. Once fully operational – if the initiative gets featured on/approved during the 2020 ballot – smokable flower sales would be allowed. Contaminant and potency testing would not be required.

“Through the passage of two 2020 ballot initiatives, we envision a Montana in which adults are no longer arrested for responsibly consuming [cannabis] and where tax proceeds from [cannabis] sales are invested in veterans services, conservation programs, substance abuse treatment, long-term health care, and municipal services,” reads a statement from the group’s official website.

New Approach Montana’s ballot initiative would impose 20 percent retail tax 

In an effort to enlighten lawmakers on the benefits of including an initiative for recreational cannabis legalization in Montana on the 2020 ballot, New Approach Montana have highlighted the revenue prospects.

Much like other states that have legalized cannabis for recreational purposes, Montana’s destined market would also reap revenue from taxes on legal weed products. According to the group, cannabis tax revenue will harvest $48 million annually by 2025; pinning the projected yearly market value at $240 million.

The group pulled these estimates from the governor’s budget office.

“[New Approach Montana] worked around the clock” in 100 state House districts “so that Montana voters could sign our petitions safely and qualify these popular initiatives for the November ballot,” group spokesperson Pepper Peterson said in  statement. 

Back in July of last year, Colorado’s cannabis industry had raked in more than $1 billion in tax revenue for the state. Since this milestone was accomplished within the first five years of legal commercial cannabis sales, there’s no telling what a state like Montana – with a population in excess of one million – could be capable of.

In addition to the initiative for recreational cannabis legalization in Montana, the group is also striving for government officials to consider a complementary initiative. Based on the details of this proposal, a legal minimum purchase, consumption and possession age would be capped at 21.