Mont. Voters Approve Measure To Legalize, Tax Marijuana

Law360 (November 4, 2020, 2:49 PM EST) -- Montana voters on Tuesday approved a pair of ballot measures that will work in tandem to legalize, regulate and tax recreational marijuana.

Voters approved I-190, which legalizes marijuana use for people 21 and older, establishes a 20% excise tax on marijuana sales and reduces the tax on medical marijuana to 2% from 4%. Medical marijuana has been legal in Montana since 2004. Voters also approved a constitutional amendment that allows for a law setting a legal age for purchase, consumption or possession of marijuana.

While the vote tally will not be finalized until counties certify election results by Nov. 30, local media and The Associated Press consider the measure to have passed. As of Wednesday, the vote stood at 57% to 43% by a margin of approximately 75,000 votes, with fewer than 10,000 votes uncounted.

Montana joins 15 states that have legalized recreational marijuana for adults. Questions to legalize recreational marijuana also appeared on ballots in New Jersey and South Dakota this year.

The outcome is a victory for proponents of the measure, including New Approach Montana, a pro-cannabis campaign. 

Revenue from the taxes will fund special revenue accounts for conservation, veterans' services, substance abuse treatment, health care and local governments. 

Meanwhile, opponents of the measure, including the Wrong For Montana campaign, have said that legalizing marijuana will not increase tax revenue as much as proponents have claimed. Wrong For Montana pointed to Colorado as an example, saying that state's education system is drastically underfunded despite legalization. The opposition campaign also said that in states where marijuana is legal, marijuana tax revenue accounts for less than 1% of revenue.

The campaign also warned that legalization would increase drugged driving, marijuana and other drug addiction and minority arrests.

The Montana Contractors Association, which also opposed the measure, said that the measure would compromise safety and the work ethic among contractors. The association warned that operating heavy machinery while under the effects of marijuana is dangerous and unacceptable in the construction industry.

--Editing by Joyce Laskowski. 

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