National special-interest groups with deep pockets have funded two ballot measures that would legalize and commercialize marijuana in Montana.
Wrong for Montana, a coalition of groups within the state, is pushing back – fighting to keep the state from legalizing recreational marijuana. The coalition includes the Montana Family Foundation, the Montana Chamber of Commerce and Montana Banker’s Association.
Jeff Laszloffy is President of the Montana Family Foundation (MFF), a Focus on the Family-allied Family Policy Council. He told The Daily Citizen, “At the Montana Family Foundation our focus is on families and kids. It’s important to remember that public policy affects real people, and bad public policy hurts people in real and tangible ways.”
The first ballot initiative, CI-118, would amend the state’s constitution to allow the legislature or the state’s voters to establish a legal age for purchasing, consuming or possessing marijuana.
The second measure before voters, I-190, legalizes the possession and use of marijuana for adults over the age of 21. The legislation imposes a 20% tax on marijuana sales, requires the Department of Revenue to develop rules for regulating marijuana businesses, and allows for the resentencing or expungement of marijuana-related crimes.
Wrong for Montana, the coalition opposing the measure, has talking points, videos and research about the harms from commercialized marijuana. The group explains “Today’s marijuana is much more potent than in the past – with pot edibles, candies, cookies, ice creams, and vaping oils being up to 99% THC [the psychoactive compound in cannabis]. Compare that to 5% Woodstock Weed.”
Laszloffy points to problems in other states that now have recreational marijuana. He said, “In states that have legalized marijuana, youth marijuana addiction increased an average of 25%. THC-infused products are being marketed to kids as candies, cookies, soda and ice cream. Marijuana related emergency room visits by Colorado teens are on the rise, and youth calls to poison control centers nearly doubled in Oregon.”
In contrast to the grassroots opposition, groups pushing the drug in Montana are well-funded, with roots outside the state. The organization New Approach Montana worked to get the measure on the ballot, spending almost $5 million dollars to do so. The group received contributions from national organizations such as North Fund, New Approach PAC, the Marijuana Policy Project and the Sixteen Thirty Fund.
A little digging exposes the nature of those funding the two initiatives. The New Approach PAC has raised and spent more than $19 million dollars from 2014-2018, supporting recreational marijuana, legalized hallucinogenic mushrooms and restoration of voting rights for felons in more than a dozen states.
Politico reported that the Sixteen Thirty Fund is a “dark money” group, “a little-known nonprofit headquartered in Washington that spent $141 million on more than 100 left-leaning causes” during the 2018 elections.” Ballotpedia reports that the group supported initiatives increasing minimum wages, registering voters through motor vehicle departments, restoring voter rights for felons, and expanding state Medicaid programs.
In contrast, Wrong for Montana, the coalition opposing the measure, was launched by a Billings car dealer, and consists of state-based groups and Montana residents. Ballotpedia reports no income and expenditures for the group – up to the time of this report.
Still, the group is determined to fight these ballot measures. Laszloffy said, “Pot creates havoc everywhere it’s legalized, and we’ll do everything in our power to stop legalization and protect kids in Big Sky Country.”
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