Montana advocates meet deadline for cannabis legalization measure


June 20, 2020

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After getting shut down by the COVID-19 quarantine, Montana advocates mounted a signature-gathering surge to put them over the top. If the state verifies the signatures, marijuana legalization should be on the November ballot. (AdobeStock)

Cannabis legalization advocates in Montana submitted more than 130,000 signatures to state and county officials on Friday, which should be enough to put adult-use legalization on the ballot in November.

Officials with New Approach Montana, a Helena-based marijuana reform campaign, say they were able to overcome the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic to gather the signatures ahead of the state’s June 19 submission deadline.

In late April, a judge refused to allow the campaign to collect electronic signatures during the coronavirus shutdown. But when the state began reopening in mid-May, New Approach hit the streets with masks, disposable pens, and a tight window of time to gather tens of thousands of signatures.

“We’ve overcome a global pandemic, wildfires, floods, hail, snow, and hurricane force winds,” said Pepper Petersen, spokesperson for New Approach Montana. “Our campaign implemented strict health protocols and worked around the clock so that Montana voters could sign our petitions safely and qualify these popular initiatives for the November ballot. We collected signatures from every corner of the state and all 100 state house districts.”

New Approach submitted more than 52,000 signatures in support of I-190, an initiative that would legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana in Montana, and more than 80,000 signatures in support of CI-118, a constitutional initiative that would set the legal minimum age for purchasing, consuming, or possessing marijuana at 21. Those numbers exceed the minimum requirements of 25,468 and 50,936, respectively.

State officials now must verify the signatures before confirming the two measures for the November ballot. That process is expected to take approximately four weeks.

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