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Medical marijuana initiative one of four to make Nov. 8 ballot

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MONTANA — At least 24 initiatives were filed this spring, hoping to be placed on Montana’s Nov. 8 ballot. Only four passed.

One of those was the Montana Medical Marijuana Initiative, I-182, which supporters call a responsible and accountable law regarding medical marijuana.

The goal of the initiative is to address concerns about the previous law and improve the regulatory system to make the program safe, functional and transparent for patients, providers, regulators and Montana communities.

The initiative allows a single treating physician to certify medical marijuana for a patient diagnosed with chronic pain and includes post-traumatic stress disorder as a “debilitating medical condition” for which a physician may certify medical marijuana. Licensing requirements, fees and prohibitions are detailed for medical marijuana dispensaries and testing laboratories. I-182 repeals the limit of three patients for each licensed provider, and allows providers to hire employees to cultivate, dispense, and transport medical marijuana. I-182 repeals the requirement that physicians who provide certifications for 25 or more patients annually be referred to the board of medical examiners. I-182 removes the authority of law enforcement to conduct unannounced inspections of medical marijuana facilities, and requires annual inspections by the State.

Another marijuana initiative, CI-115, the Marijuana Legalization Initiative, did not make Nov. 8 ballot because they did not get the required 48,349 signatures. The initiative would have established that adults have the right to purchase, consume, and possess marijuana, subject to age limitations set by the Legislature or through ballot initiative. Federal criminal laws regarding marijuana will not be changed by the passage of this initiative, so the proposed constitutional initiative would not prevent prosecution of individuals in Montana under federal law.

An initiative opposing both marijuana ones failed to make the ballot. The Montana Drug Prohibition Initiative, I-176 was submitted by Steve Zabawa of Safe Montana. Zabawa donated more than $122,000 in cash and in-kind donations to oppose I-115. The initiative would have repealed the Montana Marijuana Act and eliminate the current differences between federal law and state law with respect to the legal status of the possession and use of marijuana.

Supporters needed to collect 24,175 valid signatures, which was 5 percent of the total number of votes cast in the last gubernatorial general election. This measure did not meet signature requirements and did not qualify for the 2016 ballot.

The other three initiatives that made the ballot are:

—I-177, Animal Trap Restrictions, that generally prohibits the use of traps and snares for animals on any public lands within Montana and establishes misdemeanor criminal penalties for violations of the trapping prohibitions. The initiative allows trapping by public employees and their agents to protect public health and safety, protect livestock and property, or conduct specified scientific and wildlife management activities.

— CI-116, the Montana Crime Victims Rights Initiative, was designed to give crime victims specific rights to ensure their interests are respected and protected under the law. CI-116 would add a new section to the Montana Constitution establishing specific rights for crime victims including the right to participate in criminal and juvenile justice proceedings, to be notified of major developments in the criminal case, to be notified of changes to the offender’s custodial status, to be present at court proceedings and provide input to the prosecutor before a plea agreement is finalized, and to be heard at plea or sentencing proceedings, or any process that may result in the offender’s release. Also known as Marsy’s Law, California voters approved a Marsy’s Law measure in 2008. Henry Nicolas, a billionaire co-founder of Broadcom Corp., began campaigning for Marsy’s Law after his sister, Marsy Nicholas, was murdered by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. Henry and his mother were confronted by Marsy’s ex-boyfriend after his release from prison; they were unaware of his release from prison on bail.

—I-181, the Montana Biomedical Research Initiative, was designed to create $20 million per year in state bonds for 10 years to establish and fund the Montana Biomedical Research Authority to oversee and review grant applications for the purpose of promoting the development of therapies and cures for brain diseases and injuries and mental illnesses, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, brain cancer, dementia, traumatic brain injury and stroke.

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