HELENA – A Montana man proposed a ballot measure this week to legalize recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older in Montana.
Anthony Varriano submitted proposed language that would amend the state Constitution to regulate pot and tax it as an industry as well as allow the purchase and possession of limited amounts. It would also require that the first $40 million in revenue raised annually in taxes go toward public schools.
Varriano, a 29-year-old reporter for the Glendive Ranger-Review, said the measure is based on Colorado's recreational marijuana law passed by voters in 2012.
"I don't mind paying a little sin tax in order for our state to improve," he said referring to the idea of related tax dollars going to schools.
Because it would amend the Constitution, Varriano needs to collect nearly 50,000 signatures to get the initiative on next year's ballot. He says if his measure passes a legal review, he plans to ride his bike around the state to gather the signatures.
"I've got the hard part ahead of me," he said of the signature gathering. "But the reaction has gotten me really excited; I think if we got it on the ballot it would pass."
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Earlier this month, Oregon became the fourth state to legalize recreational marijuana, following Colorado, Washington state and Alaska. Possession of personal amounts is also allowed in Washington, D.C., although sales are not.
Varriano's proposal is one of three marijuana-related ballot proposals submitted so far to the Secretary of State's Office for review.
Mort Reid, a Billings resident and president of the Montana Cannabis Information Association, has proposed a constitutional initiative that would remove certain limits in the state's current medical marijuana law.
In 2004, voters passed a measure that legalized pot for certain medical conditions. As of the end of May, 11,717 people were enrolled in Montana's medical marijuana program.
Steve Zabawa, a car dealership owner from Billings, will try again to gather enough signatures to repeal the state's medical marijuana law and bar any Schedule 1 drug, including marijuana, listed in the federal Controlled Substances Act. Zabawa failed to place a similar measure on the 2014 ballot after having just three weeks to collect signatures.