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Wrong For Montana wants Montana Supreme Court to remove I-190 from ballot

Group says marijuana initiative appropriates sales tax revenue
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Posted at 10:01 AM, Oct 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-19 11:16:17-04

A group opposed to legalizing marijuana says Initiative 190 is flawed and wants to have it removed from the ballot.

Wrong For Montana made that announcement Friday morning.

Article III, Section 4 of the Montana Constitution states "The people may enact laws by initiative on all matters except appropriations of money and local or special laws."

I-190 states that tax money will go to certain accounts and the general fund.

The initiative would establish a 20 percent sales tax on non-medical marijuana.

The words on the ballot state: "10.5% of the tax revenue goes to the state general fund, with the rest dedicated to accounts for conservation programs, substance abuse treatment, veterans’ services, healthcare costs, and localities where marijuana is sold."

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Steve Zabawa

"They've actually allocated and appropriated the money to go to the vets to go to the conservation groups, to go to some addiction treatment places, and 10 percent to go into the general fund," said Steve Zabawa, Wrong For Montana treasurer. "So if any of you go the voter pamphlet, you'll see how it's appropriated. Well in the state of Montana, you can not appropriate, according to my attorney that money. It has to be done by the House, the Senate and the Governor."

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"What is in the initiative is not an appropriation," said Dave Lewis, New Approach Montana policy advisor. "It simply says when the money comes in, you put it in these accounts. But it's up to the legislature whether they appropriate it or move the money somewhere else or whatever. It's simply a recommendation by the people who wrote the initiative that the money be split up in a particular way. But it's up to the legislature. Only the legislature can appropriate."

On page 50 of the 2020 Voter Information Pamphlet, section 35 of the complete text of I-190 shows a Marijuana compensation special revenue account.

That section, which continues on page 51, states that sales taxes collected must be deposited in several accounts and sub-accounts.

Zabawa said the suit will be filed with the Montana Supreme Court on Monday.