Recreational cannabis legalization failed to pass through the Montana legislature earlier this year; now two advocacy groups are turning to voters to reform the state's cannabis laws.
At the end of June, the cannabis advocacy group MontanaCan submitted their legalization ballot initiative - officially titled Ballot Issue No. 5 - to Secretary of State Corey Stapleton. Now they can begin the difficult task of gathering the 25,000 signatures needed to get their initiative on the state's 2020 ballot.
However, Ballot Issue No. 5 may not be the only cannabis initiative on the upcoming ballot. Coalition 406—another group that wants to legalize recreational cannabis use in Montana—is preparing to submit their own initiative.
While Coalition 406 has yet to finalize the language for their text, the basics of the two initiatives will be largely the same. Both groups want the state to implement a regulated cannabis marketplace that will allow adults 21 or older to purchase and consume cannabis. Taxes would be set around 15 percent for recreational cannabis, and the current taxes on medical marijuana would be reduced or eliminated. Programs would also be put in place to protect small business owners from being squeezed out of the industry by big, out-of-state corporations.
Where the two groups differ is largely in how they're framing the issue and where their funding is coming from.
MontanaCan is pushing cannabis legalization as a means of improving the health and safety of cannabis consumers. All of their funding is coming from donors within the state, and they're currently working on a budget of about $500,000.
Coalition 406, on the other hand, is positioning cannabis legalization as a veteran's issue. They argue that legalizing recreational use cannabis would allow veterans easier access to medical marijuana. In contrast to MontanaCan's grassroots approach, Coalition 406 is working with some of the biggest national cannabis advocacy groups, including the Marijuana Policy Project, for their campaign. As a result, they're boasting a budget of closer to $3.5 million for their campaign.
No official opposition to either initiatives have been announced just yet, but Father Time will be the enemy of both campaigns. All initiatives looking to get on Montana's 2020 ballot will have until July of 2020 to gather the required signatures.