Montana Cannabis Opponent Ditches Effort to Repeal MMJ Law

Published on August 24, 2016 · Last updated July 28, 2020

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The sponsor of a proposed initiative to repeal Montana’s medical marijuana law said Wednesday he won’t appeal a judge’s refusal to place the measure on November’s ballot, but instead will focus on defeating a separate initiative to expand medical cannabis distribution.

Billings car dealer Steve Zabawa told The Associated Press in an interview that there isn’t enough time for him to appeal to the Montana Supreme Court before Secretary of State Linda McCulloch’s office certifies the ballots and sends them for printing.

Instead, he said his Safe Montana group will focus on defeating I-182, a ballot measure that would ease restrictions on medical marijuana distribution.

Zabawa made the comments a day after District Judge Heidi Ulbricht denied his request to intervene and order McCulloch to place his initiative on the ballot.

The initiative fell more than 4,100 signatures short of qualifying. Zabawa claimed thousands of signatures gathered for the measure had been lost or improperly invalidated

“We’ll spend all our efforts now making sure people know what I-182 is all about,” he said.

He also plans to lobby the state Legislature in 2017 to pass a bill that bans marijuana and all Schedule 1 drugs in Montana, and may consider another ballot initiative in 2018.

Zabawa’s measure, known as I-176, sought to repeal Montana’s medical marijuana law and declare that any drug illegal under federal law is illegal under state law. The result would have been a ban on marijuana use and possession in the state, including the 13,170 medical marijuana patients on Montana’s registry.

Zabawa spent $92,000 of his own money in the failed effort to place the measure on the ballot, according to campaign finance records filed with the Commissioner of Political Practices Office. He said he spent an additional $100,000 of his own money on audits and legal fees to contest the rejected and missing signatures.

Ulbricht in her order did not address Zabawa’s argument that county officials across the state improperly rejected about 3,200 signatures he said came from registered voters.

The judge also denied Zabawa’s requests for Flathead County officials to conduct an exhaustive search of their offices for more than 2,000 missing signature and for the initiative to be put on the 2016 ballot or the 2018 ballot whether those signatures are found or not.

Flathead County election officials are entitled to the presumption that they performed their duties, and county officials had already unsuccessfully searched for the signatures, Ulbricht wrote.

Shop highly rated dispensaries near you

Showing you dispensaries near
See all dispensaries

“Petitioners failed to introduce evidence that I-176 garnered the requisite number of verified signatures to be placed on the November 2016 ballot,” Ulbricht’s order stated. “Without the requisite number of verified signatures, the Secretary of State does not have a clear legal duty to place I-176 on the ballot.”

McCulloch said the decision underscores the confidence she has in county election officials to do their jobs effectively and efficiently.

“We’re very glad the judge made a quick decision, so the ballots can be finalized and printed,” she said in a statement.

Zabawa still contends enough signatures were gathered to place the measure on the ballot Last week, he attempted to re-submit the 3,200 rejected signatures to McCulloch’s office after conducting an audit to show they were signed by registered voters.

McCulloch rejected the effort, writing him back that her office could not tabulate the signatures because the deadline for submittal was July 15.

Shop highly rated dispensaries near you

Showing you dispensaries near
See all dispensaries
The Associated Press
The Associated Press
The AP is one of the world's largest and most trusted sources of independent newsgathering.
View The Associated Press's articles
Get good reads, local deals, and strain spotlights delivered right to your inbox.

By providing us with your email address, you agree to Leafly's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Stay In Touch

Receive updates on new products, special offers, and industry news.

By providing us with your email address, you agree to Leafly's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Leafly mobile app
Get high for less.
Download the Leafly app.
Download Leafly: Marijuana Reviews on the App Store
Download Leafly Marijuana Reviews on Google Play

* Statements made on this website have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Information provided by this website or this company is not a substitute for individual medical advice.

© 2024 Leafly, LLC
Leafly and the Leafly logo are registered trademarks of Leafly, LLC. All Rights Reserved.