Volunteers Collected Over 46,000 Signatures on IR-124;Expecting to Qualify in 60 House Districts to Force Vote on Medical Marijuana Law Changes

State to Report IR-124 Is Qualified for November 2012 Ballot

HELENA, October 3, 2011 – Montana voters will get the chance next year to approve or disapprove of the 2011 Legislature’s changes to the state’s medical marijuana law.

As of last Friday’s Sept. 30 deadline, Patients for Reform – Not Repeal has collected over 46,000 signatures to place IR-124 on the November 2012 ballot. The group also believes it has qualified in over 60 house districts well beyond the minimum of 34 house districts. This afternoon, the first business day after the deadline for signatures, the Secretary of State notified the petition committee that IR-124 has qualified with more than sufficient signatures.

“This has been a tremendous effort. We started out less than three months ago with hundreds of volunteers who were new to the petitioning process, but those volunteers have qualified this measure for the ballot,” said Rose Habib, volunteer coordinator for Patients for Reform – Not Repeal. “This is citizen action at its best.”

The campaign is placing before Montana voters Senate Bill 423, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Essman (R-Billings). Essman’s bill repealed I-148, the voter-approved medical marijuana initiative, and replaced it with a new program that opponents say is deeply flawed.

“This new program does not work. Seriously ill patients are having trouble getting access to their medicine in the wake of SB 423,” said Sarah Baugh, a patient and spokesperson for Patients for Reform – Not Repeal. “Montanans agree that patients with serious conditions should have access to medical marijuana and that government has no business interfering in medical decisions between those patients and their doctors. SB 423 goes too far and harms patients’ rights.”

I-148 was approved by Montana voters in 2004 with 62% support, receiving more votes than the winning candidates for president and for governor received in Montana that year. Opponents of SB 423 believe Montana voters are still in support of medical marijuana, and say the Legislature’s action went against the will of the voters.

“We agree that Montana’s medical marijuana program needs reform, but we strongly oppose the Legislature’s repeal of I-148,” said Baugh. “Montana voters should be the ones who decide the fate of an initiative we passed, not the politicians in Helena. It is very disrespectful for the legislature to overturn the will of the voters as they did.”

The Montana Constitution requires that an initiative referendum receive valid signatures from at least 5% of the voters statewide (currently 24,337 signatures) and that 5% of the voters in at least one-third of Montana’s 100 house districts sign the petition.

County elections offices have processed just over 33,000 of the over 46,000 signatures collected on the petition to date. But IR-124 has already received sufficient valid signatures to qualify for the ballot, with the Secretary of State’s office reporting 26,778 valid signatures and hitting the 5% threshold in at least 49 house districts.

“We are thrilled that our volunteers collected over 46,000 signatures and that we are seeing so many house districts fall into place,” said Habib. “Our people have been working hard for many weeks now, standing on the street, setting up at the fairs and talking to their neighbors to collect signatures. We got signatures in every county, and most legislators are going to see that their constituents supported our effort to force a vote on this awful new law.”

The IR-124 petition received signatures from voters in every one of Montana’s 100 house districts as well as each of the state’s 56 counties. Counties must complete the processing of signatures and file certified petitions with the Secretary of State by October 28.

“Our progress throughout the petition campaign was good, morale was high, and the support from Montana voters was tremendous,” said Habib. “We are all proud to have been a part of making history here in Montana.”

In just over a year, Montana voters will have the opportunity to vote on IR-124 and decide whether to approve or reject SB 423.“Our campaign begins today,” said Sarah Baugh. “We are going to fight the legislature’s bill and educate the voters on the problems with SB 423, with the end goal of having a workable medical marijuana program.”

For more information, visit patients4reform.org.

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The Numbers Behind Qualifying IR-124 for the November 2012 Ballot

Requirements to Qualify for the 2012 Ballot
24,337 valid signatures – The Montana Constitution requires that 5% of Montana voters sign the petition for it to qualify. 5% of Montana voters is 24,337.
34 house districts – The Montana Constitution also requires that 5% of the voter in one-third of Montana’s 100 house districts also sign. This is to ensure geographic diversity.

Numbers from the Secretary of State
26,778 official valid signatures – The counties still need to process over 10,000 signatures, but of those processed to date, 26,778 have been deemed valid.
49 officially qualified house districts –Based on the signatures processed to date, IR-124 has received sufficient valid signatures to qualify 49 house districts.

The People of Patients for Reform – Not Repeal
500 volunteers
 – Over 500 Montanans volunteered their time to collect signatures to place IR-124 on the ballot.
6,000 hours –Those volunteers contributed more than 6,000 collective hours to the campaign.

Signatures Collected for IR-124 Petition
46,000 signatures collected
 – Over 46,000 signatures from Montana voters were submitted to county elections offices for the IR-124 petition.
60 or more qualified house districts – On top of the 49 house districts officially qualified to date, IR-124 received signatures in certain counties that make another 19 house districts possible, 10 of which are highly likely.
56 counties – IR-124 received signatures from voters in each of Montana’s 56 counties.
100 house districts – IR-124 also received signatures from voters in every house district.

Matt Leow
Consultant | M+R Strategic Services
405 South 1st Street West | Missoula, MT 59806
P.O. Box 5800 | Missoula, MT 59806 (mailing address)
406-541-8535 phone | 406-370-3183 mobile
mleow@mrss.com | www.mrss.com
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