Montana Medical Marijuana Veto Referendum, IR-124 (2012)

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Type:Veto referendum
State code:LC 2204 (Targeted law)
Referred by:Citizens
Topic:Marijuana
Status:Approveda
The Montana Medical Marijuana Referendum was on the November 6, 2012 ballot in the state of Montana as a veto referendum, called Initiative Referendum No. 124,[1] where it was approved. The measure approved a legislative revision of 2004 medical marijuana measure. The measure was slated to become a law on May 13, 2011. To read more on the legislation that sought to revise the 2004 measure, click here. The petition to place the legislation on the ballot was filed with the Montana Secretary of State by John Masterson of Montana Cannabis Industry Association on May 12, 2011.[2]

Election results

See also: 2012 ballot measure election results

The following are unofficial election results:

Montana LR-124
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 268,790 57.25%
No200,73042.75%

Results are certified and final.

Official results via Montana Secretary of State.

Text of measure

Ballot language

The actual ballot language as it appeared:[2]

INITIATIVE REFERENDUM NO. 124

AN ACT OF THE LEGISLATURE REFERRED BY REFERENDUM PETITION

In 2004, Montana voters approved I-148, creating a medical marijuana program for patients with debilitating medical conditions. Senate Bill 423, passed by the 2011 Legislature, repeals I-148 and enacts a new medical marijuana program, which includes: permitting patients to grow marijuana or designate a provider; limiting each marijuana provider to three patients; prohibiting marijuana providers from accepting anything of value in exchange for services or products; granting local governments authority to regulate marijuana providers; establishing specific standards for demonstrating chronic pain; and reviewing the practices of doctors who certify marijuana use for 25 or more patients in a 12-month period.

If Senate Bill 423 is affirmed by the voters, there will be no fiscal impact because the legislature has funded the costs of its implementation. If Senate Bill 423 is rejected by the voters, there may be a small savings to the State.

[] FOR Senate Bill 423, a bill which repeals I-148 and enacts a new medical marijuana program.

[] AGAINST Senate Bill 423, a bill which repeals I-148 and enacts a new medical marijuana program. A vote against Senate Bill 423 will restore I-148.

Ballot summary

The official ballot text reads as follows:[2]

In 2004, Montana voters approved I-148, creating a medical marijuana program for patients with debilitating medical conditions. Senate Bill 423, passed by the 2011 Legislature, repeals I-148 and enacts a new medical marijuana program, which includes: permitting patients to grow marijuana or designate a provider; limiting each marijuana provider to three patients; prohibiting marijuana providers from accepting anything of value in exchange for services or products; granting local governments authority to regulate marijuana providers; establishing specific standards for demonstrating chronic pain; and reviewing the practices of doctors who certify marijuana use for 25 or more patients in a 12-month period.
If Senate Bill 423 is affirmed by the voters, there will be no fiscal impact because the legislature has funded the costs of its implementation. If Senate Bill 423 is rejected by the voters, there may be a small savings to the State.

Background

State lawmakers had previously tried to repeal the 2004 measure outright with House Bill 161. HB 161 passed through both the Montana House of Representatives and the Montana State Senate, which only left the Governor of Montana to sign the measure for it to become a law. The measure was vetoed by Governor of Montana Brian Schweitzer on April 13, 2011 stating that the repeal was contrary to the decision voters made in 2004. The governor stated, "There were many people out there who said there is a medicine out there that is not currently legal." Schweitzer also stated, though, that stricter regulations on medical marijuana are needed, declaring, "I'm not a doctor, but we have heard from doctors and patients that this medicine helps them. Do we need 28,000 (medical marijuana) patients? I doubt it."

Support

  • As one of Senate Bill 423's original authors, Senator Cliff Larsen argued in favor of the current law. On speaking of the rapidly expanding marijuana industry that came as a result of I-148, he said, "It wasn’t medical marijuana, it was recreational marijuana and it perverted the good intentions of using marijuana for medical purposes."[3]
  • Ravalli County Sheriff Chris Hoffman asked voters to approve SB 423 and argued that the law had already helped curb drug-related crimes. In a letter to the editor he sent to local media, Hoffman said, "Because of Senate Bill 423 law enforcement has seen a decline in incidents involving thefts, burglary, serious assaults and even homicides relating to the marijuana industry. This legislation translates to safer communities, a true benefit to all."[4]

Tactics and strategies

The group called Safe Communities, Safe Kids announced a political practice complaint against Attorney General Steve Bullock over the referendum's ballot language. The group claimed that the official language was misleading to voters. The complaint was made on Wednesday, October 17, despite the language having been approved during the summer and the legal ten day window for challenging ballot language being passed.[5]

Opposition

The referendum was started by opponents of Senate Bill 423 and were therefore campaigning for a 'no' vote on the ballot question.

Opponents

  • According to Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock, the medical marijuana law should have been kept. The statement by the attorney general was in response to a lawsuit filed against the medical marijuana law, challenging its constitutionality.[6]
  • Garden Mother Earth business owner and grower Katrina Farnum signed the petition to put the referendum on the ballot. Farnum commented on the law that would have impacted the 2004 initiative: "I think anytime you have a citizen's initiative overturned like that, everyone should be concerned because that can come into play in everyone's lives over any issue. This is just one."[7]

Arguments

  • Volunteer petition drive organizer Rose Habib stated about the citizen-initiated repeal: "We're going to win because what the legislature did was against the voters of Montana and many people, regardless of how they feel about medical marijuana, are appalled the legislators felt they could repeal a citizen's initiative, regardless of what issue it was."[8]
  • Ray Ring, a senior editor at a Bozeman, Montana magazine, argued in a column for the use of medical marijuana, pointing at hypocrisy when making his argument. Ring stated at the end of his column: "It's worth noting that when Montana's Legislature was about to begin this year's session, the governor said he was tired of the heavy boozing that occurs around every session...Then shortly after this session began, the chairman of the Republican Senate Judiciary Committee was arrested for drinking while driving. The Legislature also gave casinos permission to attract more customers with bigger bingo prizes and new video games, and it squelched a proposal for a higher tax on cigarettes. It's not just that the arguments against medical marijuana seem weak and unconvincing; hardest of all to swallow is our hypocrisy."[9]

Media endorsements

See also: Endorsements of Montana ballot measures, 2012

Support

  • The Great Falls Tribune stated about this measure and the proposed eminent domain referendum: "Both referendums are ill-advised, and for pretty much the same basic reason: Even though the laws they target fall far short of perfection, revoking them and replacing them with what existed before the 62nd legislative session would be far worse." The editorial stated specifically about the marijuana referendum: "Growers and "dispensaries" sprang up around the state with little regulation, causing education and law enforcement issues that hadn't been foreseen by advocates of the original initiative."[10]
  • The Daily Inter Lake said, "We urge you to vote FOR Senate Bill 423 and enact a new, more tightly regulated medical marijuana program. The old system just didn’t work, and we should never go back to that again."[11]

Controversies and events

U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy on January 23, 2012, ruled that Montana's medical marijuana law did not make marijuana providers immune to federal prosecution. The ruling dismissed a civil lawsuit filed by 14 plaintiffs that were the target of raids that took place across the state in 2011. According to the plaintiffs, who included individuals and businesses in the state that provide the drug, the raids violated constitutional rights due to the law that was passed in 2004 that legalized medical marijuana.[12]

Reports did not state what connection this lawsuit had to the veto referendum.

Polls

See also: Polls, 2012 ballot measures
  • A Public Policy Polling survey conducted on September 10-11, 2012, found that 46 percent planned on voting 'yes' on the referendum, while 29 percent said they would vote 'no', and 24 percent were undecided. The poll was based on a pool of 656 likely voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percent.[13]
  • According to a Mason Dixon poll conducted from September 17 to September 19, 2012, 44 percent of the 625 registered voters surveyed would vote 'Yes' on the measure. Another 31 percent were against it and 25 percent were undecided. The study reported a plus or minus 4 percent margin of error.[14]
Legend

     Position is ahead and at or over 50%     Position is ahead or tied, but under 50%

Date of Poll Pollster In favor Opposed Undecided Number polled
Sept. 10-11, 2012 Public Policy Polling 46% 29% 24% 656
Sept. 17-19, 2012 Mason Dixon 44% 31% 25% 625


Path to the ballot

Petition approval

The Montana Secretary of State approved the petition on June 29, 2011, claiming that the petition's language was legally sufficient to circulate. Reports said that the approval came six weeks after the office received the ballot measure filings on May 12, 2011.[15]

According to Kate Cholewa, spokeswoman for the Cannabis Industry Association stated about the upcoming signature gathering process: "We want to get everyone trained and trained well. There will be some petitions out on the street over the Fourth of July weekend. Everyone wants to do something to contribute, and this is certainly an opportunity."

Reports said that the initiative effort had collected close to 24,000 signatures by late August 2011, and planned to collect about 15,000 more in case of discrepancies. The group needed to collect 24,337 signatures in order to make the 2012 ballot.[16]

On October 3, 2011, the initiated referendum qualified for the ballot after the Montana Secretary of State concluded enough valid signatures were submitted by the September 30, 2011 petition drive deadline for proposed veto referendums. According to the secretary of state, approximately 26,000 signatures were collected to qualify the measure.[17]

Litigation

Along with the veto referendum, a lawsuit was filed by the Montana Cannabis Association, challenging that the newly passed law violates citizens' constitutional right to the following:[18]

  • Equal protection
  • Privacy, dignity
  • Freedom of speech
  • Due process
  • Right to pursue life’s basic necessities
  • Right against unreasonable searches and seizures

Ruling

A preliminary injunction was issued on June 30, 2011 by state District Judge James Reynolds. Reynolds ruled that the signed law that imposed further restrictions to medical marijuana would deny access to patients who were entitled to it. The ruling did not include a judgment on if medical marijuana has benefits, but did say that that specific subject was already decided by voters. Reynolds did say that the provisions to restrict medical marijuana were too much, blocking aspects of the law that prohibited profits for marijuana suppliers and banned advertising and promotion. Reynolds stated: "The court is unaware of and has not been shown where any person in any other licensed and lawful industry in Montana -- be he a barber, an accountant, a lawyer or a doctor -- who, providing a legal product or service, is denied the right to charge for that service or is limited in the number of people he or she can serve."[19]

Appeal

On August 9, 2011, the state appealed the ruling to the Montana Supreme Court. Reports said that the state argued that there was no constitutional right to sell marijuana for a profit.[20]

According to assistant attorney general Jim Molloy, who lead the defense of the law: "We believe it’s necessary to have the Supreme Court determine the proper constitutional standards to be applied before the case moves forward to a full trial."[20]

See also

Additional reading

References

  1. referendum text from secretary of state website, accessed February 6, 2012
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Montana Secretary of State, "Proposed 2012 Ballot Issues," accessed May 13, 2011
  3. Roundupweb.com, "Ballot Issue Allows Voters to Reset the Debate Over Medical Marijuana, But Will It Matter?," October 17, 2012
  4. KPAX News, "Ravalli Co. sheriff urges vote against marijuana initiative," October 25, 2012
  5. Billings Gazette, "Medical marijuana opponents accused of political stunt," October 17, 2012
  6. Billings Gazette, "AG says new medical marijuana law shouldn't be stopped," June 3, 2011
  7. KPAX.com, "Petitioners closer to statewide vote of marijuana law," September 2, 2011
  8. Beartooth NBC, "Organization collecting signatures for ballot initiative," August 12, 2011 (dead link)
  9. HCN.org, "The real side effect of medical marijuana," August 26, 2011
  10. Great Falls Tribune, "Ill advised referendums would only make things worse," May 21, 2011
  11. Daily Inter Lake, "Vote to save pot law revision," October 19, 2012
  12. Washington Post, "Judge: Montana’s medical marijuana law doesn’t shield providers from federal prosecution," January 23, 2012
  13. Public Policy Polling, "Bullock edges Hill for Montana governor," September 13, 2012
  14. Independent Record, "Voters back restrictions on cannabis; strong majority favors notification law," September 22, 2012
  15. The Missoulian, "State OKs petition for medical marijuana ballot initiative," June 28, 2011
  16. NBCMontana.com, "Medical Marijuana Petitioners Reach 24,000 Signatures," August 23, 2011
  17. Houston Chronicle, "Marijuana initiative qualifies for ballot," October 3, 2011
  18. Colorado Independent, "Medical marijuana battle escalates in Montana," June 6, 2011
  19. Rueters.com, "Montana judge blocks new curbs on medical marijuana," July 1, 2011
  20. 20.0 20.1 Billings Gazette, "State appeals ruling that blocks portion of medical marijuana restrictions," August 9, 2011