MT: Single Donor Supports Campaign Against Medical Marijuana Expansion

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Bozeman, Mont. – NBC Montana is following the money in the fight over medical marijuana as Election Day approaches. Initiative 182 would expand existing laws, but it won’t pass if a group called Safe Montana has its way.

Medical marijuana is a controversial topic in the Treasure State. Some people oppose it, while others believe in its therapeutic values.

"I think it could be something that could help people. It could especially help people with post-traumatic stress disorder and a lot of people with psychiatric issues," said Bozeman resident Jared Massey.

Montana Citizens for I-182 and Safe Montana show how intense the clash can get.

"Initiative battles tend to be hard fought, and they tend to be a slugfest. This one is hard-fought and it’s a slugfest," said Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathon Motl.

At the center of the battle is how both sides are financing their campaigns. Both recently filed complaints against each other claiming campaign violations.

NBC Montana sat down and went through their donation lists. Since June Safe Montana has raised close to $90,000. I-182 has collected about $8,500 in donations.

The pro-medical marijuana initiative has a long list of donors. They come from every corner of the state including Kalispell, Billings and Bozeman. Safe Montana has just one donor in that period of time. That is Steve Zabawa of Billings. The $90,000 contributed to Safe Montana is his own money.

Motl says it is a unique situation.

"You usually see a small number of donors, but one is unusual. Obviously that individual feels very passionate about it and has contributed a substantial amount of money first to try to pass Initiative 176 and now to try to defeat Initiative 182," said Motl. Initiative 176 was a failed attempt to ban medical marijuana in the state. It did not gain enough signatures to make it on the November ballot.

NBC Montana wanted to know what voters thought about the lack of money coming from other donors.

"I guess it reflects the general overall sense among the public. I think most people are fine with medical marijuana. If somebody needs that, its fine," said Pete Cottolillo, a Bozeman resident. He said he can’t predict an election, but with the lack of donors against medical marijuana he believes the initiative will pass.

There’s no legal limit to how much one person or corporation can contribute to an initiative. The result of the election will show if hefty donations made an impact.

As far as the complaints either side filed, Safe Montana has been found in violation of campaign finance rules. Motl will have a decision on the two complaints facing I-182 in the next week.

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker
Full Article: Single Donor Supports Campaign Against Medical Marijuana Expansion
Author: Judith Retana
Contact: (406) 721-2063
Photo Credit: KTVM
Website: NBC Montana