Lawmaker proposes committee to study legalization of marijuana

    Montana legalized medical marijuana in 2016, but hasn't yet legalized recreational marijuana. (Photo: News file)

    Recreational marijuana is legal in 11 states. Montana legalized medical marijuana in 2016, but hasn’t yet legalized it recreationally.

    State Sen. Diane Sands (D-Missoula) wants to make sure that, if legalized recreational marijuana ends up on a ballot, legislators are educated on the complicated issue.

    "One thing that I've learned as a long-term legislator is that sometimes we get way behind on an issue. We seldom are ahead of an issue,” said Sands. “When the people of Montana legalized medical marijuana, the legislature was caught flat-footed. I don't want to see that happen with legalization."

    Sands is the lead sponsor of Senate Joint Resolution 11. It would have an interim committee study all of the aspects of the potential legalization of marijuana.

    The committee would look at factors like legalizing, regulating and taxing marijuana, as well as the public health and safety aspects associated with it.

    She says many of these answers can’t fit on a 100-word ballot.

    “Is it going to be treated like alcohol in House and Revenue? Are you going to treat it like medical marijuana and leave it in DPHHS? Can minors at 18 or 21 use it? How is law enforcement supposed to handle it?” asked Sands.

    Those are the questions Sands wants answered before the measure ends up on a ballot.

    She emphasized that she is not for or against legalizing marijuana but wants everyone to be ready if it happens.

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