MO: No Decision Yet On Anti-Marijuana Initiative


A Kalispell judge on Friday heard lengthy arguments from the sponsors of a measure to repeal the state medical marijuana program, and will decide next week on the group’s petition to place its initiative on November’s general election ballot.

In a hearing before Flathead County District Judge Heidi Ulbricht, attorneys for the anti-marijuana group Safe Montana and its founder, Billings car dealer Steve Zabawa, argued that more than 5,500 petition signatures were lost or wrongly rejected and should be validated. They also asked the judge to order Secretary of State Linda McCulloch to certify the initiative for the ballot.

Earlier this month, the organization filed a complaint against McCulloch, as well as Flathead County Clerk and Recorder Debbie Pierson and Recording Manager Monica Eisenzimer. The complaint argues that the local election office lost more than 2,500 signatures in support of the initiative, and that McCulloch’s office failed to tally 3,253 valid signatures.

The Montana Secretary of State’s Office reports that it has completed its count of ballot initiative signatures, leaving Safe Montana’s initiative, I-176, short of the minimum needed to get before voters. A tally released on Aug. 2 put I-176 at 20,038 verified signatures, falling short of the 24,175 necessary.

The initiative would repeal the Montana Marijuana Act and defer to the federal scheduling of the substance as a Schedule I drug. About 13,000 people in the state currently receive medical marijuana under the act.

Ulbricht instructed attorneys on both sides to file additional information by 5 p.m. Monday. Zabawa said he expects a decision by next week, when McCulloch’s office will begin certifying the election ballots.

The measure, which fell short of qualifying by 4,137 signatures, seeks to repeal Montana’s medical marijuana law and declare that any drug illegal under federal law is also illegal under state law.

“Both sides presented their best case and we will do the best we can next week,” Zabawa said.

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker
Full Article: No Decision Yet On Anti-Marijuana Initiative
Author: Tristan Scott
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Photo Credit: Flathead Beacon
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