As this pandemic continues, more states within America struggle to gain momentum on cannabis legalization. Many states have given up and waited until COVID-19 is handled. One state, Montana, is not giving up. In fact, activists will continue to gather signatures for two cannabis measures. In order to do so, circulators will follow specific precautions to gather these signatures.
New Approach Montana
The path towards cannabis legalization is never easy for any state. Gaining support for not one, but two measures for the upcoming ballot during a pandemic is almost impossible. Despite the odds, Montana is carrying on. This political campaign is called New Approach Montana. Not only do they want Montana to have the benefits from cannabis, but they also want to obtain it safely.
“As our state reopens for business, we must also reopen for democracy,” said Pepper Petersen, political director for New Approach Montana. “Our signature drive will allow Montana voters to exercise their constitutional right to a ballot initiative in a safe and responsible way.”
The first measure, which requires 25,000 signatures, will create a regulated cannabis market as a statutory initiative. The second measure will require 51,000 signature. This second measure is a constitutional amendment that establishes the legal age to participate in these markets at 21. Both measures require individual signatures in person. Unfortunately, a judge denied the option to receive signatures electronically last month.
Although digital signatures would mitigate the spread of this virus, state officials demand valid in-person signatures. This forces circulators out in the public, leaving them vulnerable to sickness. Despite the risk, all signatures are due June 19th.
Moving Forward Safely
With all of this, New Approach Montana has set forth a handful of precautions for circulators to follow. Here are some of the mandatory regulations every circulator must always abide by:
- Wear disposable gloves
- Use single-use wrapped pens and dispose after each use
- Always wear masks, unless on break
- Maintain six feet from the public
- Witness signatures from a distance
- Carry supplies in clear disposable plastic bags
- No backpacks or other reusable bags
Thankfully, state officials have taken notice of the efforts made by this legalization group. After further review, Joan Miles, former director of the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, has deemed their efforts as satisfactory.
“I am encouraged to see the concentrated effort that New Approach Montana is putting forth to protect the health of Montanans as it moves forward with its signature gathering,” said Miles. “New Approach Montana is closely following the governor’s phase one recommendations for return to public life in light of the COVID pandemic, so their signature drive looks different than it did before the pandemic. The protocols they have put in place to lessen public risk are very considerate.”
Some may find this decision hard to stand by. Many believe we should be taking this pandemic more seriously and wait to reopen the country in fear of starting a second wave. Other’s believe the country needs to start operating again so that the economy doesn’t wither away.
Montana, and the committed people at New Approach Montana, will be the proving ground for the latter. By dealing with the obstacles and committing to a signature drive with responsibility, these efforts may prove opening the country sooner than later is possible. Whatever happens, this proves Montana’s determination to get cannabis on the upcoming ballot.
“Our team has taken a very conservative and cautious approach, and this is going to be the most public health-focused signature drive ever conducted in Montana,” said Petersen.