Despite U.S. House vote Montana proposal to ban medical marijuana


MISSOULA, Mont. - The U.S. may be a step closer to making marijuana legal, while a Montana ballot initiative wants to get rid of it all together.

Friday, the Republican controlled U.S. House voted to keep the federal government from interfering with states that permit the use of medical marijuana.

The 219 to 189 vote came as the House debated a bill funding the Justice Department. The measure prohibits the Department of Justice, including the DEA, from spending money to prevent states from implementing their own medical marijuana laws.

Some analysts say the vote proves medical marijuana is becoming mainstream. But a proposed ballot initiative in Montana aims to ban marijuana use all together.

It's ballot initiative 174 and it aims to ban all marijuana use in the state.

"You know it was everyday that marijuana is medicine. Well it's not. It's a federal illegal drug for certain reasons," said initiative sponsor Steve Zabawa.

Zabawa's initiative cleared a legal review this week. Now supporters have to collect more than 24,000 signatures to get it on the November ballot.

"We have a game plan for that and we have the volunteer base just going into play right now," Zabawa said. "We feel we've done a good job preparing ourselves."

But marijuana proponents like Ed Docter don't think three weeks is long enough to garner that much state support.

"It's not much time. And in fact, we've looked into it and I've looked into it and most firms would tell you that's fairly impossible," Docter said. "I'm not sure why he's doing it. It really doesn't make any sense, especially with polling nationwide, and people's perception about marijuana is changing every day."

Just one day after the initiative was cleared Docter announced that a new organization Montana Project for Innovative Policy, will work on a model for regulating medical marijuana in Montana. The group will also work on a model for the taxation and regulation of recreational marijuana for the 2015 legislative session.

"Sales of something like marijuana could back into the communities and really help," Docter said. "I do believe that by regulating marijuana you will do a much better job of keeping it out of the hands of children."

But if it's up to Zabawa and initiative supporters Montana will have to start from scratch.

"The only way to do it right is get rid of it all together right now," he said. "I think at the end of the day Montana families do not want illegal drugs legalized in their state."