John Masterson, the founder of Montana NORML, is leaving Missoula for Seattle, marking the end of 14 years of marijuana advocacy in Montana. In February, Masterson sold Modwest, the web-hosting company he co-founded in 2000, to Blackfoot Communications. Now he's heading to Seattle to launch a new tech startup.
Last week, Masterson called in from Seattle and reflected on the Montana marijuana movement's breakthroughs and setbacks. Referring to the federal raids of Montana medical marijuana businesses and the 2011 legislature's strict reform of the state's medical marijuana law, Masterson says, "Our community is fractured, terrorized, beat down, afraid—and with good reason. But despite all of that, there are people who are stepping up, standing up and getting involved with the CI-110 campaign."
Constitutional Initiative 110 is an effort to amend the state constitution to establish that "adults have the right to responsibly purchase, consume, produce and possess marijuana, subject to reasonable limitations, regulations and taxation." Montana First, the group behind it, has until June 22 to submit the 48,674 valid signatures it needs to get CI-110 on the November ballot.
Masterson calls the initiative "the cherry on top for me, after 14 years of advocacy." He says he plans to continue working on the campaign from afar, as its treasurer.
Whether or not CI-110 is successful, Masterson says he believes the work he's done to "keep the ground fertile for reform" has paid off. "I'm proud of that, and good things are happening." He points to a national poll conducted by Rasmussen a few weeks ago suggesting that 56 percent of Americans favor legalizing and regulating marijuana, similar to the way alcohol and tobacco are regulated. "That was a ray of sunshine in the middle of a difficult time," he says.
He'll find the ground somewhat more fertile in Washington. Late last year, Gov. Chris Gregoire asked the federal government to reclassify marijuana as a drug that can be prescribed by doctors and filled by pharmacists. And a marijuana tax-and-regulate bill is already on the November 2012 ballot there.