Montana voters overwhelmingly approved a pair of marijuana legalization ballot measures on Tuesday—but opponents are now attempting to invalidate the will of residents, filing a new lawsuit that argues the main reform measure that passed is unconstitutional.
The plaintiffs argue that the voter-approved statutory proposal unlawfully appropriates funds, violating a portion of the state Constitution that prohibits such activity from being included in a citizen initiative. The state Supreme Court declined to take the case last month, but it did not rule on the merits. Instead, it said the filers failed to establish the urgency needed to skip the lower court adjudication process.
They left the door open to pursuing the case in district and appeals court, however, and the plaintiffs went through with the option, as they previously told Marijuana Moment they would.
The legalization measure will establish a cannabis market for adult consumers, the suit states, “with resulting revenues to be earmarked and credited to specified programs and agencies for specified uses.”
Because it contains those provisions, the proposal “is an appropriation of money by initiative in violation of state statute,” the suit, filed on Wednesday, states. Attorneys representing the plaintiffs asked the court to deem the initiative “unconstitutional,” “void in its entirety” and “unenforceable.”
Under the proposal, half of the public revenue generated from marijuana sales will go toward environmental conservation programs—a provision that earned the campaign key endorsements in September. The measure will also send funds toward veteran services, drug treatment, health care and local governments, with the rest flowing to the general fund.
Last month, a state lawmaker announced plans to request that a bill be introduced to repeal the legalization measure, but he set aside those plans this week following the strong vote in favor of the policy change. As of Friday afternoon’s vote tallying, the initiative is ahead by a 57-43 percent margin.
“The only branch of government in this state dumb enough to overturn citizens’ initiative is the [state] Supreme Court, which has done it repeatedly,” the lawmaker, Rep. Derek Skees (R), said on Wednesday.
Montana was one of five states that legalized marijuana in some form this week, along with Arizona, New Jersey, Mississippi and South Dakota.
Nationwide, voters passed every single major cannabis and drug policy ballot measure across the country this election, including decriminalization of psychedelic plants and fungi in Washington, DC and decriminalization of all drugs in Oregon, as well as a separate measure in that state to legalize psilocybin therapy.
Beyond the statutory measure to establish a legal cannabis market, Montanans also passed a constitutional amendment stipulating that only adults 21 and older can participate in the program. That initiative was not challenged in the opponents’ lawsuit.
Read the latest legal challenge against the Montana marijuana legalization initiative below: