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Montana committee removes medical marijuana changes from recreational marijuana initiative

Posted at 4:55 PM, Feb 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-10 22:19:26-05

HELENA — One of the groups seeking to legalize marijuana in Montana is revising a proposed initiative, after state officials raised legal concerns over the original draft.

New Approach Montana is proposing a pair of initiatives to allow recreational marijuana use for people 21 and over. One of the proposed initiatives is statutory and lays out the framework of a legal marijuana system, while the other would be a constitutional amendment that would allow the state to set the minimum age at 21. Both must be cleared by state legal analysts before they can move forward.

The committee submitted its original proposals to the Montana Secretary of State’s office on Jan. 13, but withdrew the statutory initiative and resubmitted an updated draft last week.

Pepper Petersen, New Approach Montana’s political director, said leaders decided to remove a provision that would have lowered the tax on medical marijuana from 2% to 1%, along with other proposed changes to bring medical marijuana rules in line with recreational rules. He said officials told them making any changes to the medical marijuana system would violate a state rule that initiatives only deal with a single subject.

Petersen said New Approach decided to focus on legalization.

“We’ll wait for the Legislature and see what we can do about medical marijuana,” he said.

You can find a link to New Approach’s full revised initiative draft at the group’s website.

New Approach’s constitutional initiative cleared its initial review by the Legislative Services Division and is now being checked by the Montana Attorney General’s Office. Petersen said they hope that measure will be cleared for signature gathering by next month, and that the statutory initiative will follow by April.

A statutory initiative must receive at least 25,468 signatures to qualify for the ballot, while a constitutional amendment must get at least 50,936.

Another committee, called MontanaCan, is also seeking to qualify a marijuana legalization initiative for the November ballot. That group’s current draft would eliminate the tax on medical marijuana altogether.

New Approach’s plan would allow people 21 and over to use marijuana, and it would set a 20% tax on recreational marijuana sales. MontanaCan’s would legalize marijuana for those 18 and over, and would set the tax at 5%.