Montana took a first step towards putting cannabis legalization on the November 2020 ballot this afternoon, as New Approach Montana submitted two ballot initiatives to the state attorney general’s office for legal vetting.
One measure sets the legal age at 21, the other establishes a regulatory framework for retail sales.
The first of the two initiatives would legalize cannabis 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 set the legal minimum age for marijuana consumption at 21.
“Montanans support legalizing marijuana and setting the minimum age at 21,” said Pepper Petersen, spokesperson for New Approach Montana in a press release. “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.”
Cuts the medical marijuana tax in half
New Approach Montana is sponsoring both initiatives, which were were drafted with input from Montana voters, stakeholders, and policy experts, establishing a legalization policy that builds upon the state’s existing medical marijuana framework.
If the measures are determined to be constitutionally legal, New Approach Montana would then have to gather 25,468 signatures to qualify the statutory initiative for the 2020 ballot and 50,936 signatures to qualify the constitutional initiative.
The statutory initiative would allow possession of up to an ounce by adults aged 21 and older, establish the Montana Department of Revenue as the state’s cannabis regulatory agency, give current Montana medical marijuana providers first entry into the expanded cannabis retail market, and reduce the tax on medical marijuana from 2% to 1%.
Tax rate would be 20%
The initiative would also set a 20% sales tax on cannabis, which would not apply to medical products. The tax revenue would go to land, water, and wildlife conservation programs; veteran services; substance abuse treatment; long-term health care; local governments where cannabis is sold; and general revenue for the state. New Approach Montana predicts that a 20% cannabis sales tax would generate more than $37 million per year in new revenue by 2025.
Montana legalized medical cannabis by ballot initiative with the Montana Medical Marijuana Act in 2004.