The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has dealt the world a blow it will take years to recover from. The health crisis has stretched healthcare capabilities to the max, and experts say the U.S. economy is already in a recession. Drug reform initiatives have been majorly affected too, with states like New York and Missouri postponing their marijuana legalization initiatives to 2021 and beyond. Montana, however, seems to have weathered the storm after activists submitted the required voter signatures before the deadline.
The New Approach Montana campaign turned in more than 130,000 signatures to qualify two legalization initiatives for the November ballot. Although the coronavirus pandemic forced the activists to put their signature collection activities in pause, they relaunched their efforts in recent weeks and submitted their final petition on deadline day. The first initiative, a statutory measure to establish a regulated market for adults in the state, required about 25,000 valid signatures, and activists turned in about 52,000 signatures.
The second measure is a constitutional amendment backed by the New Approach Montana campaign stipulating that only those 21 and older can participate in the marijuana market. It required about 51,000 signatures and the campaign submitted about 80,000.
“This was the most innovative signature drive I’ve ever seen. The campaign used mailings, online ads, phone calls, and texting. Signature gatherers traveled all across the state collecting signatures every day while strictly adhering to internal health protocols,” says Matthew Schweich, deputy director of the Marijuana Policy Project, which helped coordinate the signature collection efforts.
According to New Approach Montana spokesperson Pepper Petersen, the group overcame a global pandemic, wildfires, floods, hail, snow, and hurricane-force winds. “Our campaign implemented strict health protocols and worked around the clock so that Montana voters could sign our petitions safely and qualify these popular initiatives for the November ballot. We collected signatures from every corner of the state and all 100 state house districts,” she said in a press release.
“The reason we were able to complete our signature drive in a shortened period of time and in spite of inclement weather is the strong support among Montanans for legalizing marijuana for adults,” he said. “We can generate tens of millions of dollars of new tax revenue, create thousands of new jobs, and provide a new source of commercial activity for Montana’s existing small businesses.”
If the measure for creating a regulated cannabis market is passed without the constitutional amendment requiring customers to be 21 and older to access the market, it could lead to an unprecedented situation. Montana could become the first state in the country that allows individuals 18 and over access to legal marijuana.
Industry analysts say sector players like Plus Products Inc. (CSE: PLUS) (OTCQX: PLPRF) are pleased that some good news is still emerging despite the COVID-19 crisis which has battered all industries.
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