Montana prohibitionists are calling on the Supreme Court docket to take away legalization from the vote


With two weeks to go until election day and with a marijuana legalization move showing a 10-point lead in the polls, the prohibitionists are making one last attempt to hold the initiative off the November election.

On Tuesday, October 20, the Wrong for Montana organization filed a motion with the state's Supreme Court to annul Initiative 190 and remove it from the vote, even though the attorney general's office already deemed the measure legally sufficient. In addition, thousands of coal and steel workers have already submitted their voting papers by post.

The anti-legalization group argues that the initiative is unconstitutional as it uses the tax revenue generated by the program for specific purposes. Proponents of the measure have shown that the initiative merely suggests how the funds should be allocated; State legislation would have the final say on how it should be distributed.

Try the old Nebraska Hail-Mary

The Montana lawsuit follows a legal strategy successfully used by Republican prohibitionists in Nebraska this year: if you can't get votes, try to find anti-legalization judges to undermine the voice of the people.

"Opposition campaigns have been spreading misinformation in Montana for weeks," said Pepper Petersen, spokesman for New Approach Montana, in a recent interview. “This indictment, this announcement from the lawyers is only the final chapter of their misinformation campaign. The people of Montana will see if they continue to vote yes to CI-118 and I-190. "

"We have all talked about where the money should go," he added in a separate interview. "You do when you take initiatives, but it is up to the law to make that decision."


Wahl 2020: Guide to Legalizing Cannabis in Montana

An aggressive anti-legalization campaign

Wrong for Montana was founded in September by Steve Zabawa, a Montana auto salesman who has long spoken out against cannabis reform in the state. Vitriol versus Zabawa is so prevalent that a pro-cannabis Facebook group dedicated to boycotting its business has more than 5,000 active members.

Since the organization started, Zabawa has tried various strategies to attack the legalization initiative. Earlier this month, Wrong for Montana filed a complaint with the State Commissioner for Political Practices for disclosure of the North Fund, a mysterious 501 (c) (4) that donated nearly $ 5 million to the legalization campaign of its donors.

Magicians and puppets

In a comment left on the Montana Public Radio story page of the donation, Zabawa himself wrote, “Why should Big Marijuana, the wizard behind the North Fund's $ 4.7 million get out of state funds and our current one Wipe out marijuana 260 pharmacies and 38,000 greens? Cardholders? The wizard and his three dolls Pepper (Petersen), Dave (Lewis) and Ted (Dick) are selling Montaner to big money outside of the state to fill their pockets! "


Cannabis Cowboys: A 900 Mile Trip with Montana's Marijuana Legalization Campaign

Zabawa has also argued that expected revenue from legal cannabis – an estimated $ 50 million a year once the program is up – is just a "drop in the ocean".

"If it makes a billion dollars, it might be worth it," he told Montana Public Radio. "But if it gets a tiny drop in the bucket and you're causing all these other diseases, I don't think it's worth it."

If you lose the polls, file a lawsuit

False for Montana's lawsuit doesn't seem to reflect the opinion of most Montans: A poll released last week by Montana State University found that 49% of voters support legalization and 39% are against it.

In other words, only 1% of the undecided voters need to support the measure for it to be passed.

Tax revenue seen as a big plus

The legalization has gained widespread support in part because of New Approach Montana's proposed revenue sharing, which is estimated to total $ 236 million by 2026. The group recommends using half of this to support public land and environmental remediation projects. The other half would be split equally from the state's general fund, funding for communities that enable cannabis sales, veterans services, drug abuse treatment, and care services for the disabled and elderly Montans.

"For decades and decades, public lots and conservation communities have been trying to find places where we have committed income to fund our public lots," Aaron Murphy, executive director of Montana Conservation Voters, told Missoulian earlier this month. "When this opportunity turned out to be a very smart and timely solution to it, these organizations saw the same things and said, 'Yes, we will find out. "

$ 11,000 wasted per arrest

This week's lawsuit follows a new study highlighting the absurdity of marijuana arrests in Montana: 99% of arrests were of nonviolent offenders, Indigenous Montans were twice as likely to be arrested as their white counterparts, and Black Montans were five times more likely to be arrested as white residents.

The study concluded that the state spends nearly $ 11,000 per arrest.

"It shows that Montana is wasting a lot of tax money," said Petersen, "on something that shouldn't be illegal at all."

Max Savage Levenson

Max Savage Levenson probably has the lowest cannabis tolerance of any writer on the cannabis beat. He also writes about music for Pitchfork, Bandcamp and other people with glasses. He is the co-host of the Hash podcast. His dream interview is Tyler the Creator.

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Beth Edmonds