Marijuana legalization measure to appear on November ballot

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The Montana Secretary of State certified that a measure seeking to legalize recreational marijuana in the state has gathered enough signatures to appear on the November ballot.

If passed, the measure would legalize the possession and use of limited amounts of marijuana for adults over the age of 21. The measure would also establish a 20% tax of non-medical marijuana.

An accompanying constitutional initiative, which was also certified to appear on the November ballot, would allow the legal age to buy marijuana to be set at 21.

Of the tax revenue that would be generated by the measure, 10.5% would go to the state’s general fund, while the remainder would fund conservation programs, substance abuse treatment, veterans’ services, health care costs, and localities where marijuana is sold.

The measure would permit people currently serving a sentence for illegal possession, sale, or use of marijuana to apply for resentencing.

According to a fiscal note from the governor’s budget office, the measure could generate $3.5 million in tax revenue in Fiscal Year 2022, growing to $38.5 million in 2025.

The New Approach Montana committee was behind the signature gathering effort. The group, which gathered more than 50,000 signatures to support the ballot initiative and more than 80,000 signatures for the accompanying constitutional initiative, submitted signatures for certification 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 spokesperson Pepper Petersen said in a statement.

Peterson said that in addition to generating new jobs and revenue for the state, it would also mean that "law enforcement will stop wasting time and resources arresting adults for personal marijuana possession, and instead focus on real crime.”

Campaign finance reports show that the New Approach Montana committee paid nearly $1.5 million to FieldWorks, a professional signature collecting organization based in Washington D.C., and another $180,000 to the Montana Public Interest Research Group to collect signatures.

Two Washington-based political action committees, North Fund and New Approach PAC, are the ballot committee’s top donors, contributing $1.2 million and over $900,000 respectively, according to Commissioner of Political Practice records.