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Lawsuit filed to void Montana's marijuana initiative

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Posted at 11:05 PM, Nov 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-07 01:29:18-05

A lawsuit has been filed challenging the constitutionality of Initiative 190, which legalized recreational marijuana.

The complaint filed in Montana District Court in Helena on Wednesday, states that I-190 appropriates tax revenue, which should be the job of the Legislature.

The plaintiffs are asking the court to declare I-190 unconstitutional and void it in its entirety.

Wrong For Montana has opposed the initiative to legalize marijuana at the beginning during the collecting of signatures to put I-190 on the ballot. The measure passed with 57 percent to 43 percent of the vote.

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Steve Zabawa

"I'm a little dissatisfied at the process between the secretary of state and the attorney general to allow non-factual stuff to be set as a fact," Wrong For Montana Treasurer Steve Zabawa said. "And then not to look in the Montana Constitution. It's black and white that a ballot initiative cannot appropriate the money."

Article III, section four of the Montana Constitution states: "The people may enact laws by initiative on all matters except appropriations of money. . ."

The I-190 ballot states that tax revenue is dedicated to certain accounts.

"We believe it's deceptive," Zabawa said. "They're promising the vets and the fish and wildlife that they're going to receive some money."

New Approach Montana is the main supporter of I-190 and its policy adviser, Dave Lewis, said he can not comment on pending litigation.

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But he did comment before the election.

"What is in the initiative is not an appropriation," Lewis said on Oct. 16. "It simply says when the money comes in, you put it in these accounts. But it's up to the Legislature. Only the Legislature can appropriate."

"Their problem in there and why this is a flawed ballot is that they actually, every little thing they appropriated the money and allocated it," Zabawa said. "So they can't say it's a suggestion because it's not a suggestion. Just read it. There's no gray area. It's black and white. It's viable and will get thrown out. I just believe at the end of the day, we will not have legalization of marijuana in the state of Montana at this time."

The secretary of state and the attorney general are named as defendants and an AG spokesperson says the office does not comment on pending litigation.