In these November 2020 elections, cannabis legalization initiatives will appear on the ballot papers of five states: Arizona, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota. Each Sunday through November 3, law Law Blog will publish a post that focuses on one of these state election initiatives and the current laws regarding cannabis in that state. Today is the third post where we discuss the two cannabis-related actions that will take place in Montana in November: Initiative 190, known as the Marihuana Legalization and Tax Initiative (2020), and CI-118, or Allow for a Legal Age for marijuana modification (2020).
What are the current laws surrounding cannabis in Montana?
Recreational cannabis is illegal in Montana. In 2004, however, the Montans voted in favor of legalizing cannabis for medicinal purposes. 62 percent of voters approved the Medical Marijuana Licensing Act. The Medical Marijuana Allowance Act enabled patients with painful and debilitating conditions to produce and use cannabis.
Despite the vast majority of Montana voters who voted for the Medical Marijuana Allowance Act, lawmakers have since attempted to downgrade and restrict the law. In 2011, the Montana House of Representatives voted to repeal the law, but then-Governor Brian Schweitzer vetoed the law. Later that year, however, the Senate successfully passed Senate Draft 423 (SB 423), which reformed the Medical Marijuana Allowance Act and imposed stricter regulations on the medical cannabis industry and patients.
These regulations included definitions of the conditions under which a patient was qualified to use medicinal cannabis and allowed patients to choose whether to grow cannabis or to designate a provider (someone who grows and supplies cannabis). Under SB 423, providers could supply up to three patients with cannabis and at the same time prohibit them from receiving anything in exchange. Other reforms included banning the advertising of medicinal cannabis, screening procedures for doctors who frequently prescribe cannabis to patients, and strengthening the regulatory powers of local authorities over the cannabis industry.
In the 2012 Montana ballot, a veto referendum to block SB 423 appeared, which would have repealed the regulations imposed by the Senate. However, the majority of Montana voters decided to uphold the bill. However, in 2016 the Montans voted to adopt Initiative 182, Montana Medical Marijuana Initiative, which removes the regulations imposed by SB 423. Under the Montana Medical Marijuana Act, providers would no longer be limited to just three patients and could employ others to help them grow and spread. While the new law required the state to conduct annual inspections of cannabis facilities, it also banned unannounced inspections by law enforcement agencies.
What are the election initiatives for the upcoming elections?
Two measures related to cannabis are featured on the Montana ballot in November. The first 190 initiative, or the marijuana legalization and tax initiative, would legalize recreational cannabis. In short, if passed, the marijuana legalization and tax initiative would legalize the possession and use of recreational cannabis for adults 21 and older. The purchase of cannabis would also be taxed at 20 percent by the state, and the Treasury would be charged with creating regulations for cannabis companies. In addition, individuals convicted of certain crimes related to cannabis can delete their records or be convicted again.
The second, CI-118, or the “Allowing Legal Age for Marijuana” amendment, is similar to an initiated constitutional change that would change the Montana state constitution to allow legal age for the use and purchase of cannabis as with alcohol is regulated.
Prospects for the adoption of Initiative 190 and the constitutional amendment that has been introduced 118
The prospect of these two initiatives being adopted seems likely but not certain. When asked whether recreational cannabis should be legal in a February poll, 54 percent of respondents said yes, while only 37 percent said no. A survey in September shows that there is less scope. 49 percent of respondents said they would vote yes to the initiatives and 39 percent said they would vote no. Furthermore, the fact that Montana legalized cannabis for medicinal use in 2004 may only suggest that Montana voters are more open to legalization measures.
For information on previous coverage in this series, see the following sections: