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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Montana Cannabis Advocates Announce Medical Marijuana Ballot Initiative

Montana Cannabis Industry Association’s Kate Cholewa announces the medical marijuana ballot initiative campaign at the state capitol, April 19, 2016.
Corin Cates-Carney
Montana Cannabis Industry Association’s Kate Cholewa announces the medical marijuan ballot initiative campaign Tuesday at the state capitol.";

A group campaigning to reform Montana’s medical marijuana law is getting a late start in collecting the signatures needed to qualify their initiative for the November ballot. Advocates for medical marijuana in Montana have just over two months to collect more than 24,000 signatures needed to put I-182 on the 2016 ballot.

The advocates announced their campaign Tuesday at the Capitol, after the Department of Justice approved the language of their initiative late last week.

The Montana Cannabis Industry Association’s Kate Cholewa said the late start on this ballot initiative is a result of changes to the Association’s strategy on this issue after a ruling by the Supreme Court limited the use of medical marijuana.

“We feel confident that we can do this, it has been done before. We think that our fellow citizens are going to step up and sign. And we know the support is out there for this. They do not want medical marijuana to go away in Montana.”

In 2004, voters legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes, but in 2011, the Montana legislature passed a bill restricting access to the drug. In February, Montana’s supreme court upheld most of the law. Marijuana dispensaries say that decision stands to drive them out of business.

Cholewa says this ballot initiative will overturn those restrictions and create a more responsible system for medical marijuana.

She expects this year’s ballot campaign to cost in the six figures. The effort is being bankrolled by Montana Cannabis Industry Association fundraising. The MCIA has hired a national consulting group M&R to help.

The advocacy group has 23 field workers collecting signatures.

Corin Cates-Carney manages MTPR’s daily and long-term news projects. After spending more than five years living and reporting across Western and Central Montana, he became news director in early 2020.
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