Legislative Update: Monday, April 10

Dunwell

Freddy Monares/UM Legislative News Service

Rep. Mary Ann Dunwell, seen here earlier in the session, on Monday spoke in favor a resolution calling for a study of marijuana legalization in Montana.

Resolution calls for study of pot legalization

By Cole Grant

Montana lawmakers may have the opportunity to study the possibility of  legalizing recreational marijuana in the next year or so.

Rep. Mary Ann Dunwell, D-Helena, said that even if now isn’t the time to legalize, it may be the time for the state to look at the issue.

“I’m not sure it’s the best thing for Montana,” she said. “I just feel it’s an opportunity. Given what’s going on all around us, it’s an opportunity to take a look at this.”

House Joint Resolution 35, heard Monday, would create a committee that would study how recreational legalization would be carried out in Montana.

The committee would look at things like whether liquor control should be a guide for marijuana control, how legalization has affected other states, and the pros and cons of it all. The findings would be reported to the next Montana Legislature.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, eight states and the District of Columbia have legalized small amounts of adult-use recreational marijuana, and 21 have decriminalized it.

Cole Grant is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.

 

Ballot-collection would be restricted by proposed law

By Freddy Monares

A House committee passed a bill Monday that would create a ballot initiative to prohibit the collection of a voter’s ballot to take it to a polling place, election office or the post office.

Senate Bill 352 would create the “Montana Ballot Interference Prevention Act.” The bill provides exceptions for family members, caregivers and acquaintances who are authorized to pick up ballots.

Rep. Theresa Manzella, R-Hamilton spoke in favor of the bill, saying that voting is a fundamental right in our country that others don’t have.

“We need to protect the integrity of our elections and voting process in every way that we possibly can,” Manzella said.

Rep. Shane Morigeau, D-Missoula, disagreed, saying that if Montanans are giving someone their ballots, they should already know and trust them.

“I just think it’s unnecessary,” Morigeau said of the legislation. “I think it has the opposite effect—that it doesn’t protect the vulnerable.”

The bill passed out of the committee on party lines and will now be in the full House for debate.

Freddy Monares is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.

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