Decriminalize it

Montana medical marijuana activists have been on the defensive since last January, when the Montana Legislature convened with its conservative majority intent on stifling the state's booming medical marijuana industry. But now some marijuana activists are attempting to render the state's strict new medical marijuana law moot by decriminalizing marijuana altogether.

Last week, the Montana Secretary of State's office green-lighted a petition for an amendment to the state constitution establishing that "adults have the right to responsibly purchase, consume, produce and possess marijuana, subject to reasonable limitations, regulations and taxation."

Constitutional Initiative No. 110 is sponsored by Barb Trego, a former deputy reserve sheriff in Lewis and Clark County. It will appear on the 2012 ballot if Trego and other advocates who make up the newly formed pro-pot group Montana First can collect 48,674 signatures (10 percent of the total number of qualified voters in the state, including 10 percent of the voters in each of the 40 legislative house districts).

Montana First will begin collecting signatures this month, says the group's treasurer and Montana NORML Director John Masterson. The deadline is in June.

CI-110 would add two sentences to a section of the state constitution dealing with adult rights. "After voters pass it," Trego said in a statement, "there will be work to do to define limits and regulations." The amendment would go into effect on July 1, 2013. Federally, marijuana possession would still be illegal.

Masterson says marijuana advocates' recent success in gathering 24,337 signatures to place a referendum of the legislature's reform bill on the 2012 ballot bodes well for the decriminalization effort. "I think that energy is still high, and with this constitutional initiative I think we're going to attract new energy also—people who believe strongly in the privacy rights of Montana adults and also people who acknowledge that the chasing around of adults for personal marijuana use is not a good use of public resources."

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