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Ex-Law Enforcement Official Working To Bring Marijuana Legalization To Montana

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Montana medical marijuanaAn East Helena woman is trying to put a constitutional initiative to the voters to decriminalize marijuana so that it is regulated like alcohol.

The Missoulian reports that Barb Trego filed the paperwork this week with Secretary of State Linda McCulloch

Trego is a 56-year-old medical marijuana patient and former Lewis and Clark Sheriff’s Office employee.

State agencies must review the proposal before the petition language is approved and she can start collecting signatures.

Her measure differs from the proposed referendum already cleared by state agencies that, if enough Montanans sign petitions, would let voters decide whether to retain or reject the more restrictive 2011 state medical marijuana law. A Helena district judge has temporarily blocked parts of the new law from taking effect.

Trego initially told the Missoulian State Bureau Thursday she was part of a group putting forward the initiative, but declined to identify it. She called back later to say she’s offering the measure on her own, not on behalf of any group.

“I have watched the back-and-forth over our state’s medical marijuana law with sadness and frustration,” she said in the letter. “Fundamentally, marijuana is a safe and effective plant-based medicine. But it is treated in the political debate here in Montana as some kind of heretical force, or as a dangerous narcotic, or both. It is neither.”

Her proposal would amend the state constitutional provision that says a person 18 years of age or older is an adult for all purposes, although the Legislature or the people by initiative may set the legal age for purchasing, consuming or possessing alcoholic beverages.

Trego would add this language: “Adults have the right to responsibly purchase, consume, produce and possess alcoholic beverages and marijuana, subject to reasonable limitations, regulations and taxation. Except for actions that endanger minors, children or public safety, no criminal offense or penalty of this state shall apply to such activities.”

Montana has higher law enforcement priorities than “to target individuals who produce or possess marijuana for personal use,” her findings say.

Trego’s findings have a caveat that says voters recognize the federal government maintains “a strict prohibition” on marijuana, just as it once had a prohibition on alcohol. As a result, the amendment “may be limited in its applicability until such time as the national prohibition (on marijuana) or its enforcement, is relaxed or repealed,” they say.

To qualify for the ballot, Trego would need the signatures of 10 percent of the voters in 40 of the 100 state House districts and 10 percent of the total voters statewide. That’s 48,674 people.

Senate Majority Leader Jeff Essmann noted that a ballot measure to decriminalize marijuana was defeated last year in California.

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