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Marijuana legalization ballot committee turns in signatures

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HELENA (AP) – A group seeking to legalize recreational marijuana in Montana said Friday it has gathered enough signatures to put the question to voters in November’s election.

Organizers for the ballot committee, New Approach Montana, said they have turned in 52,000 signatures in support of a ballot initiative to allow retail marijuana sales at a 20 percent tax rate.

They said they also turned in more than 80,000 signatures for an accompanying constitutional initiative that would allow the legal age to buy marijuana to be set at 21.

To get on the ballot, an initiative to change or add a state law must have at least 25,468 voter signatures – including signatures from at least 5 percent of the voters from 34 of 100 state House districts. For a constitutional initiative, the threshold is at least 50,936 signatures, including 10 percent from voters in 40 House districts.

New Approach Montana organizers said they collected signatures from all 100 state House districts while taking precautions to prevent transmission during the coronavirus pandemic.

Election officials must verify the signatures before the measures are approved for the ballot.

Campaign finance reports show the committee paid more than $1 million to FieldWorks, a professional signature-collecting organization based in Washington D.C., and another $86,000 to the Montana Public Interest Research Group to collect signatures.

A Washington-based political action committee called New Approach PAC is the ballot committee’s top donor, contributing at least $938,000, according to Commissioner of Political Practice records.

Joseph T. O'Connor is the previous Editor-in-Chief for EBS newspaper and Mountain Outlaw magazine.

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