Marijuana

Jars of marijuana are on display at Grizzly Pine Premium Cannabis on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020 in Bozeman.

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Montanans have voted to legalize recreational marijuana.

The Associated Press called the elections around 1 a.m. Wednesday morning.

Preliminary results reported by the Montana Secretary of State’s website show that 58% of ballots counted so far are in support of CI-118 and 57% are in support of I-190, the two initiatives that would legalize the sale and use of recreational marijuana for people over 21 in Montana.

CI-118 is a constitutional initiative that will amend the Montana constitution to allow the sale of marijuana to people over 21 years of age, similar to the sale of alcohol and tobacco. I-190 lays out the groundwork for legalization, including the 20% tax on marijuana products and the Department of Revenue's overseeing of the licensing, inspection and testing processes.

A majority of I-190 will go into effect on October 1, 2021.

Dave Lewis, a policy adviser for New Approach Montana, said the expected passage of the two initiatives will bring jobs and a boost to Montana's tax revenue and tourism industry.

"I think it will be a real shot in the arm for the tourism industry, that's something that has worked real well in Colorado to build their economy," he said. "(Legalizing marijuana) was an incredible economic boom in every place that it's started out."

Wrong for Montana spokesperson Steve Zabawa said the opposition group will file a lawsuit to overturn the two initiatives Wednesday in Helena district court.

"The thing has been written extremely attractive for the voter to vote in favor to help the vets and help fish and so forth ... and it shouldn't have been written that way," he said. "We believe the voters have been deceived on this."

The longer of the two initiatives, I-190, includes proposed appropriations for the revenue from the tax on recreational marijuana to go to conservation programs, substance abuse treatment programs and veterans' services.

Lewis said that the potential allocations would need to be approved by the legislature, and that I-190 is not challenging that.

"We have got legal precedent," Lewis said. "Basically what we did was lay out some potential allocations and, of course, all appropriations have to be made by the legislature ... If they want to (sue), go ahead and give the lawyers some more money, but I don't expect anything to come of it."

I-190 will allow people serving a sentence for some marijuana-related crimes will have the ability to petition for an expungement of their conviction or a resentencing.

It also sets out limits for possession — no more than one ounce of flower, and no more of 8 grams of concentrate — and outlaws operating a vehicle while under the influence and selling or giving marijuana to someone under 21.

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Melissa Loveridge can be reached at mloveridge@dailychronicle.com or at (406) 582-2651.

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