Montana Bonds to Fund Biomedical Research Authority, I-181

Ballot Text: “I-181 establishes 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. The grants, which are funded by state general obligation bonds, can be used to pay the costs of peer-reviewed biomedical research and therapy development, recruiting scientists and students and acquiring innovative technologies at Montana biomedical research organizations … I-181 authorizes the creation of state bond debts for $20 million per year for a period of [10] years. State general fund costs for debt service and other expenses would be $17.38 million total for the first four years and peak at $16 million per year for fiscal years 2027-2037.”

Proponents say: I-181 would result in home-grown research that could treat and potentially cure brain diseases, brain injuries and mental illnesses; by 2025 an estimated 27,000 Montanans will have Alzheimer’s disease, resulting in a significant increase to Medicaid costs; the initiative would provide good-paying jobs for young people interested in science and research who would like to stay in Montana; and bond interest rates are low making this is a good time to invest in the measure.

Opponents say: Funding research by creating debt is not a wise use of taxpayer dollars; other needs in the state are more pressing, like investing in infrastructure that could benefit workers who have not yet recovered from the Great Recession; the lack of state legislative oversight could result in a misuse of borrowed funds by circumventing the state allocation process; the grant awarding process would create winners and losers inside the medical community; and a statewide bond initiative precedent could be abused by special interests in the future.

Montana Medical Marijuana Initiative, I-182

Ballot Text: “I-182 renames the Montana Marijuana Act to the Montana Medical Marijuana Act and amends the Act. I-182 allows a single treating physician to certify medical marijuana for a patient diagnosed with chronic pain and includes post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a ‘debilitating medical condition’ for which a physician may certify medical marijuana … 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.”

Proponents say: Medical marijuana provides an effective treatment option for a variety of illnesses and presents patients with a safer option than opiate pain medication; the law the Montana Legislature passed in 2011 repealing the 2004 Montana Marijuana Act is unworkable for patients and providers; I-182 can provide relief to veterans, emergency workers, and others suffering from PTSD.

Opponents say: Rapid growth in the marijuana industry from 2009-2011 resulted in marijuana shops and grow operations that put community safety at risk; abuse by a handful of physicians prescribing the majority of medical marijuana cards was troublesome; the restrictions put in place during the 2011 legislative session have proved to be effective at curbing the industry’s growth.