Montana voters are going to make their decision this November. Two ballot measures seek to legalize, tax and regulate the personal use, commercial use, and retail sale of marijuana to over 21 adults. This happened after the successful collection of signatures, followed by an announcement by Montana’s secretary of state.
The one statutory initiative, when approved, will allow adults to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and to grow up to four mature plants for personal use. The state will have to collect a 20% tax on retail sales and revenue from sales that will go towards worthy programs and causes.
The second ballot measure is simply a constitutional amendment that allows only those over 21 to be actively involved in the legal cannabis market. The approval of these two will ensure that people can own and grow their marijuana right at home for personal use and not for sale or distribution.
The Montana Department of Revenue will draft new regulatory measures for the legal cannabis industry. They would award business licenses by January 1, 2022. The current medical cannabis businesses would be given priority when they decide to join the adult-use market. Cannabis dispensaries who have proven themselves to be compliant and safe providers would have the option to sell to the recreational market in Montana.
There would be a 20% sales tax on recreational marijuana, and the tax on medical cannabis products will go down from 2% to 1%. The revenue from the legal cannabis sales would go towards funding, land, water, and wildlife conservation programs, health care, local governments that allow cannabis businesses, and the state general fund.
According to an observation from the Governor’s Office of Budget and Program Planning, the legal cannabis retail taxes could generate more than $38.5 million every year by 2025.
“Our research has always shown that a majority of Montanans support legalization. Now voters will have the opportunity to enact that policy. This policy will create jobs and generate new revenue for our state,” said Pepper Petersen, a spokesperson for New Approach Montana, which organized the effort, said.
“It also means that law enforcement will stop wasting time and resources arresting adults for personal marijuana possession. They will instead focus on real crime,” he further adds.
The separate amendment that qualified for the ballot states that only persons of over 21 years can participate in the marijuana market. However, suppose the voters have their way. In that case, this state constitution will be amended to indicate that a person who is 18 years of age qualifies as an adult and can purchase, consume, and possess alcoholic beverages and marijuana.
In 2004, the voters approved a medical cannabis legalization initiative, then later in 2016, they successfully passed an expansion measure. New Approach Montana submitted their petitions for the marijuana measures in June. The group then later proudly announced that it was a clear indication that the state questions would make the ballot for the November 2020 vote. The important news was confirmed by the secretary of state, making it official.
The statutory measure required 25,468 valid signatures to qualify while the constitutional amendment required 50,936 valid signatures. For the activists, it was a stressful ordeal to pursue the support for the ballot because of the coronavirus pandemic. The stay-at-home rules made the petitioning difficult. Nonetheless, they were able to reach almost double the number of signatures required to put Adult-Use marijuana on the Montana election ballot this year.
“More revenue will be generated, and the law enforcement can now focus on real crime,” said Matthew Schweich, Deputy Director of the Marijuana Policy Project.