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Marijuana Advocates Push Back Initiative Plans
The advocates plan to focus on the 2016 elections
HELENA — Marijuana legalization advocates are dropping their efforts to put a voter initiative on the ballot this year amending the Montana Constitution to allow recreational use of the drug, an organizer said Tuesday.

Instead, the advocates plan to focus on the 2016 elections. That might give the measure a better chance, with a broader segment of the population voting in that presidential election compared with the turnout expected for the 2014 midterms, Marijuana Policy Project spokesman Chris Lindsey said.

The Montana Secretary of State's Office last year cleared sponsors to gather signatures in their effort to put the proposed constitutional change on this year's ballot. It would have given adults the right to buy, consume, produce and possess marijuana.

"Very early in the process we realized the timing wasn't right, we weren't going to have the resources necessary to make it happen," Lindsey said. "If donors are going to put in their resources, they want to win."

The threshold to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot is higher than an initiative to add or change a state law. For a constitutional initiative to qualify, backers must gather signatures from 10 percent of the total number of qualified voters in the state. Of that total, the signatures must come from 10 percent of the voters in each of the 40 state House districts.

Non-constitutional initiatives require at least 5 percent of the total number of voters, including 5 percent of the voters in each of 34 House districts.

KECI-TV first reported the advocates' decision to forgo the 2014 initiative campaign.

The delay gives potential donors including the Marijuana Policy Project and NORML a chance to weigh in on the proposal, such as whether to include tax collections and whether the measure will be a constitutional amendment, Lindsey said.

Their input will be needed with the initiative campaign expected to be a very expensive one, Lindsey said.

It also gives Montana voters a chance to judge how legal recreational use of the drug is working in Washington and Colorado. Voters in those states approved initiatives in 2012, and regulation is just getting underway.

Montana advocates also attempted to place an initiative on the 2012 ballot but failed to collect the required signatures in time.
 
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