IR-124 Faces Uphill Battle

Opponents Glad to See Legislature’s Phony Medical Marijuana
Law Polls Below 50%

HELENA, Sept. 13 – A new poll shows that IR-124 (PDF), the November 6 referendum on the 2011 Legislature’s unworkable medical marijuana law, faces steep odds, with support at only 46 percent.

Bob Brigham, campaign manager for Patients for Reform, Not Repeal, said, “Historically, ballot measures that don’t start near 60 percent support are in danger of failing. IR-124 doesn’t even hit 50 percent. That’s a bad sign for the legislature’s proposal, especially if we do our job and explain to voters why they should vote against this ‘godawful’ law.”

This afternoon, a new Public Policy Polling survey was released in which the full ballot summary for IR-124 was read aloud to 656 registered and likely Montana voters. The summary describes Senate Bill 423, which was forced to the ballot by opponents and appears as IR-124.

Support was 46 percent, opposition 29 percent, and a large number, 24 percent, were undecided on the legislature’s proposal. The poll was completed before most voters could have learned about this week’s Montana Supreme Court decision on SB 423, which enacted for the first time the law’s most extreme features and ensured that voters will have the final say on this issue in November.

Brigham observed, “There is a lot about IR-124 that is not clear to voters at this time, but it is vulnerable because it overturns the will of the people. In addition, the law’s most extreme qualities, which are crushing to the state’s sickest patients, have only just now taken effect.  Montanans supported medical marijuana with 62 percent of the vote just eight years ago.”

Brigham said, “This new law hurts the very people Montana voters most wanted to help, seriously ill patients. We believe there is a better way, which is to create new regulations that serve patients and communities properly. If and when IR-124 is rejected, the work on regulation will begin anew next session.”

Just this week, in a public radio interview on KUFM in Missoula, Sen. Jeff Essman, a co-author SB 423, vowed to work on amending the law next year. The Montana Republican Party platform also calls for SB 423 to be fixed in the next legislative session, Brigham noted.

Brigham said, “Even the author of the bill knows it is severely flawed. That’s another bad sign for IR-124. We will never be complacent, but we do think we can defeat IR-124 and make Montana’s medical marijuana program workable for patients as well as for law enforcement and communities.”

MTCIA Statewide Conference Call, August 7, 2011

The MTCIA will sponsor a statewide conference call at 7 p.m. on Sunday, August 7, 2011. The agenda for the one hour call is

MTCIA President Ed Docter: Welcome and Overview  (5 minutes)

P4RNR Petition Coordinator Rose Habib: Referendum Progress Report (10 – 15 minutes)

MTCIA Board Member Kate Cholewa: MTCIA and the referendum (5 minutes)

Ed Docter: Coming events (5 minutes)

Questions: 20 – 25 minutes

You can submit questions to We will handle as many as we have time for. Questions can be submitted between now and Sunday, August 7 at 8 a.m.


What: MTCIA Statewide Conference Call

When: Sunday, August 7, 2011

Time: 7 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Conference dial-in number: (712) 432-0900
Participant access code: 161228

Medical Marijuana Petitioners Reach 24,000 Signatures

BOZEMAN, Mont. — Petitioners aiming to put medical marijuana reform on the 2012 ballot say they have gathered close to 24,000 signatures.

Fact is, that is enough to put the measure on the ballot. But organizers say they are after another 15,000 to allow for any possible discrepancies.

”I think everybody that’s been involved at this point has done an absolutely excellent job- giving up their time, volunteer, all this is, and everyone going out and hitting the streets” said petitioner and owner of Around the Clock Cannabis Rick Whatman, about the efforts so far. “Hittin’ different events, and taking away from their families and stuff and going out there to help all these other people.”

At the end of the 2011 session, state lawmakers passed strict new regulations on medical marijuana. Supporters say the law goes against the will of the people, and they want voters to decide the issue.

”We have to show the legislation system that we really do care about our right to vote, and that our vote does matter” said Whatman. “What we do vote on should stand ’til we change it as voters of Montana. And, anybody that’s out there needs to find a place to sign the petition.”

In addition to gathering signatures at events around town, Whatman said he always has the forms out at his shop for patients to sign, and has even traveled to disabled signees who could not come to him. His efforts are all in hopes hopes of getting enough signatures before the September deadline.

”I hope that a month from now, we turn in one hundred thousand signatures, so we can squash this SB 423 Bill” he said. “To show the legislation system what we really do care about, and that we are an organized crew.”

Petitioners need a total of 24,337 approved signatures from 34 different state house districts. They have until September 30th to turn in signature sheets.

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

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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 |
M+R on Facebook | Twitter

More than 35,000 Montana Voters Signed the Petition to Force Vote on Medical Marijuana Law Changes

70 House Districts Qualified

Montana Voters Show Strong Support for Referring SB 423 to the Voters


HELENA, October 31, 2011 – With the support of over 35,000 valid signatures and qualifying in 70 of 100 house districts opponents of the bill that would overhaul Montana’s medical marijuana program are buoyed by the support they received during the IR-124 petition drive.

Last Friday was the deadline for county elections offices to file certified initiative referendum petitions with the Secretary of State’s office. Now that the final petitions are in, the official tally has grown to 35,839 valid signatures. Additionally, the IR-124 petition received enough signatures, at least 5% of qualified electors, to qualify 70 of Montana’s 100 house districts.

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.

IR-124 received signatures from voters in each of Montana’s 56 counties and all of Montana’s 100 house districts. The valid signatures for IR-124 exceed the requisite 24,337 by more than 11,000, while IR-124 qualified in twice as many house districts as is required.

“For three months, hundreds of volunteers gathered signatures from tens of thousands of Montana voters,” said Rose Habib, volunteer coordinator for Patients for Reform – Not Repeal.  “The response we got was tremendous and reinforces that Montanans are not happy that the legislature overturned the will of the voters by repealing I-148.”

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 leaves many critically ill patients with no access to the medicine they need.

“SB 423 would force many patients with a prescription for medical marijuana to choose between not having the medicine they need or going to the black market to obtain their medicine,” said Habib. “While the bill allows for patients to grow their own, it provides no legal avenue for obtaining seeds or plants. This is just one of many problems with the new law.”

In late June, a Montana district court found many parts of SB 423 unconstitutional and temporarily blocked those parts of the new law. However, other provisions of SB 423 are in effect and the temporary injunction could be lifted.

Rather than relying on a legal strategy alone, opponents of SB 423 launched an initiative referendum petition drive last summer. The success of IR-124 means that Montana voters will have the opportunity to vote on IR-124 in November 2012 and decide whether to approve or reject SB 423.

“This is a historic achievement. It is not often that Montana voters exercise their right to refer a bill back to the people,” said Habib, “But when the legislature overturns the will of the voters by repealing a citizen initiative, the people are motivated to take back the power.”

IR-124 marks the first time an initiative referendum will appear on the ballot in Montana in 10 years and is just the third time since the new Montana Constitution was ratified in 1972 that Montana voters have placed a referendum on the ballot.

Responding to Federal Intimidation

One reason Montana is in the difficult situation we are today is that the federal government bans medical marijuana.

When Montana voters were considering Initiative 148 in 2004, federal government officials swooped into the state and demanded a “no” vote. Voters rejected the intimidation, voting “yes.”

In 2011, on the very day Montana legislators were deliberating on possible changes to our state medical marijuana law, federal agents conducted 26 simultaneous, surprise raids on medical marijuana providers all over the state. That brazen intimidation had an effect – some supportive legislators decided that it was hopeless to defend the voter-approved law, and backed harsh changes. (What is now IR-124 on the November 6, 2012, ballot.)

Later in 2011, more raids and indictments were launched, providers were sentenced to federal prison, and federal agencies declared that Montanans have no right to bear arms if they use medical marijuana. Suddenly, the U.S. Constitution does not apply if you’re a patient using marijuana.

The federal attack on Montanans’ gun rights was met with proper outrage by some of our leading officials, including Senators Max Baucus and John Tester, and Attorney General Steve Bullock, who wrote to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to criticize problems “created or exacerbated by federal actions and policies.” Bullock urged the national government to show “proper respect and deference to the states” when their laws differ from federal law.

Most recently, the news emerged that federal drug agents have been hinting that state lawmakers who support medical marijuana are somehow involved in “conspiracies” to sell marijuana. One lawmaker complains of federal “harassment” on the issue. To merely oppose the federal ban on medical marijuana is to be a criminal?

Now the voters have a new chance to reject federal government interference, intimidation and outrageous intrusions into the rights of Montana citizens.

By voting AGAINST IR-124, we will send a message to the federal government. We will stand up for Montanans, we will reclaim our rights, and we will find our own solutions to this issue, without more meddling from Washington, D.C.