Update (8/17): Both initiatives have since been certified to appear on the state's November ballot.
Montana residents will soon know if marijuana legalization will be on the state’s November ballot. Activists submitted more than 130,000 signatures on June 19 to qualify the pair of legalization initiatives.
The group needed to gather 26,100 signatures from registered voters for I-190, which would legalize the use and possession of cannabis in Montana. The group needed another 51,000 signatures for the Constitutional Initiative 118, which would define the legal marijuana consumption age of 21.
In addition to gathering the required number of total verified signatures for both initiatives, the campaign must also qualify 34 of 100 districts in Montana. This means that the campaign needed to gather signatures from 5 percent of those who voted in the last gubernatorial election in those 34 districts.
Now, the county officials must submit each verified petition to the secretary of state by the final filing deadline, on July 17, 2020.
“We’ve overcome a global pandemic, wildfires, floods, hail, snow, and hurricane force winds,” said Pepper Petersen, spokesperson for New Approach Montana. “Our campaign implemented strict health protocols and worked around the clock so that Montana voters could sign our petitions safely and qualify these popular initiatives for the November ballot. We collected signatures from every corner of the state and all 100 state house districts.”
However, if there ultimately are not enough valid signatures for the constitutional initiative, this could present a problem. The constitutional amendment defines the 21 years of age requirement, so without its passage, adults aged 18 and older would be able to access cannabis dispensaries.
Under the ballot initiative, the sale of smokable flower is permitted and products would be required to be tested for potency and contaminants. The state Department of Revenue would also be in charge of regulating and issuing licenses to cannabis business, with applications available by October 1, 2021.
The bill provides for the licensure and regulation of commercial cultivation, manufacture, production, distribution, testing and sale of marijuana and marijuana-infused products. The department will issue a license or endorsement within five days of approving an application or renewal. Licenses and endorsements issued to adult-use providers and adult-use marijuana-infused products providers must be renewed annually.
The department will license providers and marijuana-infused products providers according to a tiered canopy system, mirroring their existing medical marijuana program. The department will be authorized to create additional tiers as needed, including an adjusted tier system to account for outdoor cultivation.
Marijuana businesses are barred from being within 500 feet of and on the same street as a building used exclusively as a church, synagogue, or other place of worship or as a school or postsecondary school other than a commercially operated school, unless the locality allows for a reduced distance.
Additionally, a 20 percent retail tax would be assessed on adult-use products, and medical marijuana products would see a reduction in sales tax from two percent to one percent. The campaign is hopeful that the state legislature would consider eliminating the medical sales tax altogether if legalization is passed.
The tax revenue would be allocated to conservation, veterans’ services, substance abuse treatment, long-term care, local governments where recreational marijuana is sold and the state’s general fund. New Approach Montana estimates that legalization in Montana could generate more than $129 million in the first five years.
The initiative also proposes retroactively expunging or reducing convictions in criminal marijuana cases.
With the possibility of legalization landing on the November ballot, you can begin preparing for marijuana business opportunities in Montana. If recreational marijuana is placed on the ballot and legalized by voters in November, the state will hold an application process to license marijuana businesses.
Our customized Montana Application Guide and Checklist contains a roughly 40-page, detailed summary and checklist including all action items you will need to complete prior to submitting your application. It also includes our team's research of which geographical areas we believe will receive priority licensing in the state.