Debate on Marijuana Initiatives
Proponent is Pepper Petersen;Opponent is Steve Zabawa
Wednesday, Oct 21, 7:30 am via Zoom
Meeting ID: 816 2837 8931
Please remember to mute your microphone during the meeting unless you are speaking. Thanks!
A plain-language guide to Montana’s 2020 ballot initiatives
HUNTER PAULI Montana Free Press
I-190 and CI-118
To legalize marijuana in Montana, voters will have to pass two related measures. I-190 would provide the actual legalization and regulatory system for adult-use marijuana in the state, while CI-118 adds a few words to the state Constitution to fix a regulatory hurdle. As it stands, the Montana Constitution deems a person to be a legal adult at age 18 for all purposes except the purchasing of alcohol, which requires a person to be 21. New Approach Montana, the group backing legalizing marijuana, proposes a marijuana purchasing age of 21 in I-190, and so to prevent a constitutional challenge, voters will have to amend the Constitution, by approving CI-118, to say that the state can set the “legal age for purchasing, consuming, or possessing alcoholic beverages and marijuana.” Both initiatives must pass for adult-use marijuana to be legalized.
New Approach Montana is affiliated with the New Approach PAC, a national nonprofit funded by liberal philanthropic groups that has spent millions of dollars supporting drug reform laws nationwide. New Approach PAC has donated nearly $2 million to New Approach Montana to support marijuana legalization in Montana, but the bulk of NAM’s money comes from North Fund, a dark money nonprofit organization founded in December 2018 that does not publicly disclose its funders. North Fund has given nearly $5 million dollars to New Approach Montana, and Montana Commissioner of Political Practices Jeffery Mangan wants to reclassify the group from an incidental committee, which does not have to disclose donors, to an independent committee, which is required to disclose donors. North Fund appealed Mangan’s decision on Sept. 30. Mangan requested more information from North Fund on Oct. 6, and as of Oct. 12 is awaiting the group’s reply.
Opposition to the initiatives comes from Wrong for Montana, a committee set up by Billings auto dealer Steve Zabawa, who led opposition to the resuscitation of Montana’s medical marijuana program in 2016. Zabawa has filed a campaign finance complaint with the COPP echoing the state watchdog’s request that North Fund disclose its donors. According to campaign finance records, most of Wrong for Montana’s nearly $80,000 in funding has come from the Montana Family Foundation and the Montana Contractors Association, and has been spent on anti-legalization billboards across Montana.
I-190’s proposed marijuana legalization program would require the Montana Department of Revenue to regulate adult-use marijuana under a system similar to the one currently used by the Montana Department of Health and Human Services to regulate medical marijuana. State revenues from a 20% tax on recreational marijuana would be split, with half going to accounts for wildlife and parks and recreation, and the other half apportioned between the state general fund, drug treatment programs, enforcement of new marijuana regulations, veterans’ programs and raises for state-employed health care workers. A study by The University of Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research calculates $236 million in new tax revenue by 2026 if I-190 and CI-118 pass.