Montana and the nation are moving quickly towards marijuana legalization as public opinion rapidly evolves on the issue. A recent University of Montana poll found a majority of Montanans support ending the prohibition on marijuana for adults. That’s not a surprise to me, and seems like common sense. In Montana, support for marijuana legalization, like most other issues, isn’t defined by Republican or Democrat party affiliations.
Conversations are taking place around the nation in Congress, state legislatures and city halls about the proper approach to marijuana and the future of its legal and commercial status. In several states marijuana is now legal for adults and taxed like alcohol and tobacco. These states are bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars annually in marijuana tax revenue, and a recent study from a Montana State University researcher shows that in states where marijuana is legal, opioid abuse and workplace deaths decrease.
I support the legalization of marijuana for adults for a few key reasons. First, veterans are currently denied marijuana for treatment because of the Veterans Administration’s federal affiliation. These heroes deserve the proven benefits marijuana offers the most; but they are being left out. Legalizing marijuana for all adults in Montana would remove that barrier for veterans.
Second, legalizing marijuana would lead to far less people unnecessarily serving time in prison for something that should not be a crime. Third, marijuana represents a sustainable and substantial new tax revenue. By legalizing marijuana, we can help our vets, save money by spending less on our criminal justice system and have the opportunity to collect a new form of tax revenue. Taking an outdated approach to marijuana serves no one, and only costs the taxpayers money and time.
As Montana faces decreasing natural resource revenue and ever-increasing state and local budget needs, it is time to consider the regulation and taxation of marijuana. While marijuana doesn’t offer a golden goose for all our budget needs, it only makes sense to put marijuana revenue to work for Montana citizens.
After legalization efforts failed in the state legislature this past session, Montana marijuana advocates Coalition406 announced their intention to pursue a ballot initiative in 2020 to establish a system to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana in Montana.
Coalition406 then traveled around the state gathering opinions from everyday Montanans on the proper approach for marijuana legalization by holding townhall-style meetings and community-centered focus groups to dig deeper into how Montanans feel about marijuana legalization and regulation. In short, they are asking Montanans to take the central role in shaping what marijuana legalization will look like in our communities.
Coalition406 is taking the proper approach to this issue by starting the process with Montana values. I applaud their thoughtful approach, and I haven’t missed the opportunity to express my opinion that improving marijuana access for veterans should be the central focus of any legalization efforts in Montana. Let Coalition406 know your thoughts on marijuana legalization by leaving a comment on their website, www.coalition406.org.