Montana legalization advocates are suing the state saying they should be allowed to collect petition signatures electronically during the coronavirus emergency, KTVH reports. In the lawsuit, New Approach Montana argues that collecting signatures in-person in the middle of the state’s stay-at-home order would be “neither ethical nor permitted.” The group is also asking for the deadline for signatures to be submitted be moved from June 19 to August 3.
Pepper Petersen, New Approach Montana’s political director, said the organization already has a contract with DocuSign and the company can verify electronic signatures in a way that meets state requirements. He explained that the technology “isn’t new” or “novel” and that the state already accepts electronic signatures for many other uses.
“This is tried, true, tested technology. We’re just asking that for this emergency, we’re able to use that technology to protect the lives and well-being of Montanans – and also our democracy.” – Peterson to KTVH
New Approach Montana has already had two potential ballot initiatives to legalize recreational cannabis approved by the Secretary of State’s office. Initiative 90 would create the industry framework and impose a 20 percent tax on sales. I-90 requires at least 25,468 signatures to appear on November ballots. Constitutional Initiative 118 would amend the state Constitution to allow people 21-and-older to purchase and possess cannabis. CI-118 requires 50,936 signatures to be put to voters.
A competing proposal by MontanaCan would legalize cannabis for those 18 and older and impose a 5 percent tax; however, that measure has not passed legal review by the secretary of state.
At least two other cannabis initiatives have been stalled due to the coronavirus pandemic. In Missouri, advocates said the state’s stay-at-home order prevents them from signature gathering and will prohibit them from meeting the May deadline to turn in the petition. In Oklahoma, the secretary of state halted all campaign efforts, including signature gathering, until the state’s emergency declaration is withdrawn.
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