Montana Marijuana Advocates Submit Ballot Initiative to Legalize Recreational Marijuana

Marijuana-reform advocates in Montana have turned in two proposals to state officials for review, one to legalize recreational use cannabis and one to restrict use to those 21 years of age and older.

Montana marijuana advocates are one step closer to adult-use legalization. On Monday, Jan. 13, the group New Approach Montana (NAM) submitted language for two complementary 2020 ballot initiatives to the Secretary of State for review.

“Our initiatives will give voters the opportunity to approve those laws at the ballot box on Election Day. It’s time for Montana to stop wasting law enforcement resources that could be spent fighting more serious crime,” said Pepper Petersen, NAM spokesperson.

“We can shift marijuana out of the illicit market and into licensed, regulated, and tax-paying businesses. At the same time, we can create jobs and generate significant new revenue for the state,” he added.

Initiative to Legalize Recreational Marijuana

The first statutory initiative would establish a regulatory system for legal cannabis to be managed by the Montana Department of Revenue. It would allow individuals 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana.

According to NAM, the statutory initiative sets a 20 percent sales tax on recreational marijuana. An analysis from the NAM campaign estimated the 20 percent marijuana sales tax would generate over $37 million per year in new revenue by 2025.

The statutory initiative allocates the tax revenue to land, water, and wildlife conservation programs. The proposed revenue would also fund several public services including veteran services, substance abuse treatment, long-term health care, local governments where cannabis is sold, and general revenue for the state, according to NAM.

Petersen said the statutory initiative was drafted as a legalization policy that would build upon Montana’s existing medical marijuana program by offering Montana medical marijuana providers first entry into the expanded marijuana market. In addition, it would reduce the tax on medical marijuana from two percent to one percent.

He noted the campaign enlisted voices from the community, including church and tribal leaders, in the drafting process.

“Montana lawyers with experience in ballot initiative drafting and litigation have carefully vetted the details. We’ve received input from Montanans with expertise on our state’s existing medical marijuana program, civil rights, and fiscal policy. We have covered every base,” Petersen said.

Initiative to Limit Marijuana to Adults 21 and Older

The second proposal is a constitutional amendment that would change the legal age of cannabis consumption to 21, similar to alcohol.

“There is strong precedent for changing the Montana constitution to restrict marijuana to those 21 years and older,” said Petersen.

“As a state, we amended the constitution in 1986 to allow the legislature to restrict alcohol sales to those 21 and over. Our 2020 constitutional amendment adds just two words to existing constitutional language that addresses alcohol, so that marijuana can be age-restricted in the same manner.”

What’s Next for the Marijuana Proposals

According to NAM, the review process will also involve the Attorney General and the Governor’s budget director. If the language is approved by the attorney general, the group will need to gather 25,468 signatures to qualify the statutory initiative for the 2020 ballot and 50,936 signatures to qualify the constitutional amendment.

Read more on the complementary ballot initiatives, here. To learn more about current cannabis laws in the state, visit our Montana Marijuana Laws education page.

Montana Marijuana in the News

Montana is one of the 11 states we designated as the best positioned to legalize marijuana in 2020.

Check back in to follow the developments of Montana’s marijuana policies as well as other states by visiting our cannabis news page.