We're Legalized! Now What?

BLOOM MONTANA
December 1, 2020
ISSUE

We’re legalized! Now what?


From Ballotpedia- “Initiative 190 legalized the possession and use of one ounce or less of marijuana or 8 grams or less of marijuana concentrate by persons over the age of 21 in Montana. It allowed individuals to grow no more than four marijuana plants and four seedlings for personal use in their residence, as long as the plants are within an enclosed area with a lock and beyond public view. Montana residents would be allowed to possess, use, and grow marijuana on January 1, 2021.

The Montana Department of Revenue is responsible for regulating the cultivation, manufacture, transport, and sale of marijuana in Montana. It would begin accepting marijuana provider and dispensary applications by January 1, 2022.

Marijuana and marijuana-infused product sales would be taxed at 20% of the retail price. After deducting any administrative costs incurred by the department to enforce the initiative, the tax revenue was set to be allocated to the general fund, conservation programs, veterans programs, drug addiction treatment programs, local authorities enforcing the initiative, and healthcare workers.

I-190 authorized local authorities to regulate by ordinances or resolutions marijuana establishment and testing facilities.

Under Initiative 190, persons serving marijuana-related sentences that are no longer crimes under the initiative or have a lesser punishment may request to be resentenced or have the conviction expunged depending on the circumstances.”


In other words, every cannabis measure passed.


“With the passage of these initiatives, one-third of the population now lives in jurisdictions that have legalized cannabis for adult use, and 70% of all states have embraced cannabis for medical use. The federal government is out of step with a clear national trend toward legalization,” said Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement. “We can put an end to the social injustices and other harms that result from the criminalization of marijuana. While cannabis legalization is not the cure-all to end the war on drugs, it is a necessary step and would provide an opportunity for many long-oppressed communities to finally have a chance to heal.”


The bill is not without its opponents in the traditionally conservative state.

On October 16th, anti-legalization group Wrong For Montana petitioned the state’s Supreme Court to remove I-190 from the ballot, arguing that the bill, which holds that the state allocate half of the revenue generated from cannabis sales to environmental conservation programs, violates state law. “According to the Montana constitution, Article III, Section IV, you cannot allocate the revenue from an initiative, as funds must be allocated from the general fund by the Montana Legislature,” Wrong For Montana’s Steve Zabawa told local station KGVO.


And now that it passed- Wrong For Montana is suing. 


According to an article on the KTVH station’s website: Zabawa claims I-190 should be “void in its entirety” because the state constitution says a ballot initiative can’t appropriate money. In a statement, he accused proponents of “misleading the Montana Voter to think that the Vets and their family and fish and wildlife department will get a huge chunk of the pot tax revenues. This is not a suggestion, but a lie.”

Before the election, Zabawa asked the Montana Supreme Court to invalidate I-190 for the same reason. The court declined to hear the case, saying the issue should go through a lower court first.

Montana voters approved I-190 in this week’s election, 57% to 43%. Its companion measure, Constitutional Initiative 118 – which allows the state to limit marijuana sales to those 21 and older – passed 58% to 42%.

Pepper Petersen is the founder and political director of New Approach Montana, the committee that backed I-190 and CI-118. In a statement, he pointed to the wide support the measures received and said a “frivolous lawsuit” should not delay the implementation of the measures.

“If Steve Zabawa is unhappy about how tax revenue from eventual marijuana sales is used, then he can wait until the legislature acts in the coming months,” Petersen said. “But his lawsuit today is baseless and certainly premature.”

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