Recreational marijuana is likely to be passed in Big Sky Country, according to a recent Montana State University (MSU) poll. Forty-nine percent of respondents said that they’re in favor of legalizing the plant. Montana is one of five states voting on cannabis legalization in the upcoming election. The potential market value of legalizing and taxing recreational marijuana is a big selling point at a time when budgets are stretched thin by the coronavirus pandemic. Marijuana taxes brought in $302 million for Colorado in 2019 alone.
The Initiatives on the Ballot
There are two marijuana legalization initiatives on Montana’s November ballot. One of the initiatives would establish a legal cannabis market in the state and includes a 20% tax. The other is a constitutional amendment specifying that only adults 21 and older would be able to partake. If passed, adults will be able to have up to an ounce of weed and four plants. Legalizing marijuana would generate between $43.4 million and $52 million annually. It’s estimated marijuana taxes could bring in $236 million for Montana by 2026. Half of the money would go to environmental conservation programs, while the rest would be split between local governments that allow marijuana sales, community and home health care services for elderly and disabled Montanans, state grants for substance abuse treatment, services for veterans and their spouses, and the Montana general fund (the general fund is comprised of different programs, but the majority of it goes towards K-12 education).
The Poll Results
The poll asked, “The state ballot will ask about legalizing recreational marijuana in Montana. Will you vote to support or oppose legalization?” While nearly half of respondents said they support legalization, 39 percent said they plan to oppose it. The remaining 10 percent responded that they were unsure, and two percent said they don’t intend to vote on the initiative. Unsurprisingly, younger Democratic voters are the most pro-pot demographic. Only 27 percent of Republicans said that they would vote in favor of legalization; comparatively, 70 percent of Democrats and 59 percent of independents plan to vote in favor of legalization. Recreational marijuana is backed by the majority of voters between the ages of 18-59, with voters 60 and older primarily opposed to legalization.
The Critical Factors
The future of recreational marijuana in Montana, or the lack thereof, will come down to a few key influences: how the undecided voters decide to vote, and perhaps most importantly, how many young people actually turn out. MSU’s analysis pointed out that legalization initiatives are expected to get more younger people to vote, which may benefit Democratic candidates. “I think it is important to think about a ballot as a complete organic entity,” MSU political science professor David Parker said. “Young voters strongly are in favor of the measure, and they tend to be Democratic leaning.” If both initiatives pass, Montana would join the ranks of 10 states and the District of Columbia in legalizing recreational marijuana.