New Approach Montana, a Helena-based marijuana reform campaign, submitted over 130,000 signatures to counties across the state in order to qualify two complementary marijuana legalization initiatives for the November 2020 ballot. Despite the severe impact of COVID-19, the campaign was able to reach its signature goals in time for the signature submission deadline.
“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 Montana submitted over 52,000 signatures in support of I-190, a statutory initiative that would legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana in Montana, and over 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 far exceed the minimum requirements of 25,468 and 50,936, respectively.
“The reason we were able to complete our signature drive in a shortened period of time and in spite of inclement weather is the strong support among Montanans for legalizing marijuana for adults,” said Petersen. “We can generate tens of millions of dollars of new tax revenue, create thousands of new jobs, and provide a new source of commercial activity for Montana’s existing small businesses.”
Roger A. Hagan, a veteran and Legislative Committee Chairman at the Montana American Legion will be among those helping turn in completed initiative petitions to the Lewis and Clark County Elections Office. Dave Lewis, retired Montana state legislator and budget director for three Montana Governors, believes veterans have a lot to gain from legalization, especially as we face a budget downturn.
“COVID has done a number to the state’s projected tax revenue for 2020 and 2021, it’s been devastating. Adding nearly $50 million dollars a year to the state budget with legal adult use marijuana isn’t just a bonus. This projected revenue has already become vital to the future budget of this state, and veterans services like all other services need tax revenues to continue,” said Lewis.
The Governor’s Budget Office estimates that marijuana tax revenue will reach $48 million a year by 2025 under New Approach Montana’s plan to legalize and tax adult use marijuana at 20%.