420 Magazine Background

Marijuana Group Files Papers to Launch Ballot Issue Effort

420 News

New Member
HELENA – The Montana Cannabis Industry Association filed the legal papers with the secretary of state's office Thursday to start a signature-gathering effort to let Montanans vote in 2012 on a soon-to-be medical marijuana law it opposes.

The paperwork was delivered to Secretary of State Linda McCulloch's office late Thursday.

"We're moving forward on all fronts," said Kate Cholewa, spokeswoman for the group. "The people want what they voted for and what the legislature did is not it."

The association had said it would try to get Gov. Brian Schweitzer to veto Senate Bill 423, which the 2011 Legislature passed. Schweitzer has said he will let it become law Friday without his signature.

The group plans to sue the state over SB423, contending it is unconstitutional. The association raised $50,000 in five days to retain the services of Jim Goetz, a prominent Bozeman lawyer who has won a number of major lawsuits involving such issues as stream access and school funding.

The association has said it also will mount a signature-gathering campaign to place SB423 on the November 2012 ballot as a referendum so voters can decide its fate. The group also wants to get an additional bunch of signatures to suspend the law and prevent it from taking effect.

Here is the proposed statement of purpose that would appear on the petitions:

"In 2004, 62% of Montana voters passed I-148 to create a medical marijuana program for certain patients. SB423 repeals that voter initiative entirely and creates a new program that requires doctors to pay the costs of being investigated for every recommendation made to more than 25 patients; requires pain patients to see two doctors if they lack proof of their pain's etiology; requires providers to produce marijuana free to patients regardless of cost and to provide their fingerprints to the FBI and Department of Justice; and provides no legal way to obtain cannabis seeds and plants."

The petition asks people whether they are for or against Senate Bill 423, "which repeals I-148, becoming law."

The proposed petition must be reviewed by several state agencies, which may suggest changes, before the association can begin collecting signatures.

Placing a referendum on the ballot requires the signatures of 5 percent of the registered voters in 34 of the 100 state House districts and 5 percent of the total votes cast for governor in 2008 or 24,337 votes.

To suspend a law passed by the Legislature, backers must get the signatures of 15 percent of the voters in 51 of the 100 House districts. They will need to obtain between 31,238 and 43,247 signatures, depending on which state House districts they use.

In response, Sen. Jeff Essmann, R-Billings, the sponsor of SB423, said he will be in Helena on Friday and wants to visit with officials in the secretary of state's and attorney general's offices about the petition process and Goetz's forthcoming lawsuit.

"I think there's a lot of hysteria that's being raised by the large growers in the state who see a very profitable but illegal business model slipping away," Essmann said. "There's no reason for any legitimate patient who's been certified by a reputable doctor to be denied access to the product. I would hope that people don't sign the petition because it's unnecessary, unless they're interested in promoting the sale of marijuana on a cash basis."

The Montana Cannabis Industry Association was able to file the initial referendum papers even though SB423 hasn't become law yet.

Harper Lawson, chief deputy secretary of state, said the Montana Constitution refers to "any act of the Legislature" and doesn't mention when it becomes law or when the governor takes action on it.

"In this case, the Legislature has already "acted" on SB423 when they passed it," Lawson said.

In addition, nothing prohibits the group from filing the petition paperwork, he said.

"If the governor were to veto the bill, the process would become moot," Lawson said. "The process takes some time and petitions cannot be distributed for signature gathering until the process is complete. That process will take longer than the time left for the governor to veto the bill, sign it, or allow it to become law without his signature."

News Hawk- Jacob Ebel 420 MAGAZINE
Source: billingsgazette.com
Author: Charles S. Johnson
Contact: Contact Us
Copyright: The Billings Gazette
Website: Marijuana group files papers to launch ballot issue effort
Top Bottom