Montana Continues With Legalization Efforts Amid COVID-19

New Approach Montana is pressing on with its signature-gathering marijuana legalization drive as COVID-19 restrictions begin to loosen in the State.

Cannabis advocates in Montana were disheartened last month when a judge dismissed their efforts to have an electronic ballot upon which supporters could digitally provide their signatures to push for cannabis legalization in the state. The cannabis advocates were part of a group called New Approach Montana, whose efforts to secure digital signatures were the result of COVID-19 social distancing restrictions, which would have made physical signature-gathering efforts near-impossible to carry out.

However, New Approach Montana has decided to continue its efforts in making cannabis legal within the state as Montana begins to re-open.

Though in doing so, the group has to implement several precautionary measures to ensure social distancing and proper hygiene is maintained. This includes wearing disposable gloves and pens which are replaced after each use, with members also having to wear masks at all times, use hand sanitizer frequently and make it available to the public, and maintain fix feet of social distancing.

The former director of Montana's Health and Human Services Department, Joan Miles, stated that she was "encouraged to see the concentrated effort that New Approach Montana is putting forth to protect the health of Montanans as it moves forward with its signature gathering."

"New Approach Montana is closely following the governor's phase one recommendations for return to public life in light of the COVID pandemic, so their signature drive looks different than it did before the pandemic. The protocols they have put in place to lessen public risk are very considerate."

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New Approach Montana is driving two proposed ballot measures, one statutory initiative which seeks to create a regulated cannabis market for adult use, and the other which is a constitutional amendment that would set the minimum age of participation in the cannabis market at 21 years old.

The ballot measures require 25,000 valid signatures from registered voters in order to qualify the statutory initiative and 51,000 signatures are required for the constitutional proposal to implement age restrictions. New Approach Montana has until the 19th of June to get all the necessary signatures.

"Our team has taken a very conservative and cautious approach, and this is going to be the most public health-focused signature drive ever conducted in Montana," said Pepper Peterson, the political director for New Approach Montana.

"Our circulators will be trained to follow specific protocols so that we can limit direct contact with signers to the greatest degree possible," Peterson concluded.

If successful, Montana could join other states like New Jersey, South Dakota, and Mississippi who are all seeking to legalize cannabis this year.

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Louis O'Neill
Louis O'Neill

Louis is a writer based in Sydney with a focus on social and political issues. Having interviewed local politicians and entrepreneurs, Louis now focuses on cannabis culture, legislation & reform.

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