A group of Montana cannabis activists said on Friday that it had collected enough signatures for two proposed ballot measures that would legalize the recreational use of marijuana in the state to qualify for the November election. The group, New Approach Montana, submitted petitions for the two initiative proposals to government officials, who will begin the verification process.
The group submitted more than 80,000 signatures for Constitutional Initiative 118, an amendment that would set the legal age for purchasing cannabis in Montana at 21. Another 52,000 signatures accompanied a petition for Initiative 190, a separate statutory ballot measure that would permit recreational marijuana commerce in the state while setting a 20% tax on retail sales.
For the constitutional amendment initiative to qualify for the ballot, supporters must submit at least 50,936 valid signatures from registered voters and must meet a minimum threshold of signatures in at least 40 of the 100 Montana state House of Representatives legislative districts. For the statutory initiative to be certified for the November election, 25,468 verified signatures including a minimum from at least 34 districts must be turned in to government officials.
Broad Support For Legalization
Pepper Petersen, a spokesman for New Approach Montana, said that the campaign had taken precautions to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus while collecting signatures. Those gathering signatures wore masks and supporters were given wrapped, single-use pens to sign the petitions. Despite the extra measures and the limited time to canvass following a mandated stay-at-home order, the campaign was able to gather signatures from every one of the state’s House districts.
“We think it represents what’s going to happen in November,” Petersen said. “There’s going to be an overwhelming support for this in every corner of the state. There’s not a legislative district that’s not represented in the signatures. We feel like the support out there is deep and wide, and it’s really exciting.”
“It’s really exciting to see that kind of broad support, and just to see the great number of people that support this policy,” he added.
Petersen said that the campaign had collected many more signatures than necessary and expected both initiatives to successfully qualify for this year’s general election.
“We’re confident that we’ve got a good buffer, and so that the verification process will go forward and we’ll come out of that on top,” he said.
New Approach Montana delivered file boxes of signed petitions to county elections officials across the state, who have four weeks to verify the signatures submitted. Election administrators in each county will verify that each signature is from a registered voter, that voters’ signatures match those on file, and that no duplicates have been submitted. The county totals will then be forwarded to the Secretary of State’s office, which will review the findings before certifying the initiatives that meet the requirements for the November ballot.
“We’re excited about this part of the process,” Petersen said. “It’s been a long time coming.”