Will Montana Go Recreational?
New Approach Montana (a political campaign based in Helena, MT) has put forward two connected ballot initiatives — one that would create the legal framework for a recreational marijuana industry and one that would amend the Montana Constitution to limit the sale to adults over 21, just as a similar amendment did for alcohol in 1986.The Campaign is proposing a 20% sales tax on recreational marijuana and a reduction in the sales tax on medical marijuana from 2% to 1%.The group hopes the state Legislature would eliminate the medical marijuana sales tax once the recreational program is fully established. The campaign 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. A decision on qualification is expected by mid July.
Rolling out a recreational marijuana program will cost money, but New Approach expects recreational marijuana will ultimately generate revenue for Montana and will allow the state to stop wasting resources on law enforcement, said political director Pepper Petersen. New Approach’s initiative proposes allocating the new tax revenue to conservation, veterans’services, substance abuse treatment, long-term care, local governments where recreational marijuana is sold, and the state’s general fund. The group estimates recreational marijuana will generate more than $35 million in tax revenue annually by 2025.“When we look at the budget shortfalls Montana faces and the declining revenue from natural resources like coal, the question arises: How are we going to fill these holes,” Petersen said. “Recreational marijuana is the answer.”