County attorney holds that petition required to send marijuana question to ballot
The Cascade County Attorney’s Office has issued an opinion stating that the County Commissioners cannot place the question on the ballot of whether recreational marijuana sales should be allowed without a petition from citizens.
The county attorney’s office sent the opinion to commissioners on May 6 and the commission sent it to The Electric on May 9.
In April, a group of citizens attended a regular commission meeting and asked during the comment period that commissioners send the question of legalizing recreational marijuana sales back to the ballot.
Recreational marijuana sales was legalized in most counties by a statewide ballot initiative in 2020.
Cascade County voters approved legalizing recreational marijuana in 2020 with 54.73 percent voting in favor and 45.27 percent against. By the numbers, 21,747 voted in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana and 17,986 voted against the measure, according the Montana Secretary of State records.
Earlier this year, commissioners updated the zoning regulations to allow recreational marijuana operations only in heavy industrial areas, where medical marijuana dispensaries were already allowed in Cascade County.
The county attorney’s opinion states that for the recreational marijuana question to go on the November ballot, it would require locals to use the petition process that requires collecting signatures of eligible voters.
Yellowstone County Commissioners voted to send the question back to the voters on the June 7 ballot without a petition after the City of Billings sent the question to the ballot in November 2021 and voters decided to prohibit the sale of recreational marijuana within the city limits.
In their opinion, the county attorney’s office stated that they disagree with Yellowstone County’s legal opinion on the matter.
In their opinion, the attorney’s write that they also spoke with the county attorney in Granite County who agreed with their interpretation that a petition is required to send the question back to the ballot. The petition process was done in Granite County and the commissioners are sending it to the June ballot, according to the opinion.
The Great Falls City Commission did vote to send the question of whether recreational marijuana operations should be allowed in the city limits to the November ballot.
In their opinion, the county attorneys state that the city has greater self-governing powers than the county.
The city currently prohibits all marijuana operations within the city limits under its land development code by prohibiting anything that is federally illegal, such as marijuana.