Guest Post: Election 2012 Marijuana in Montana


by rideyourax

Updated Nov. 14, 2012

The votes are counted. Below is some Montana election 2012 trivia when it comes to the cannabis issue.

I-124 was the initiative that gave Montanans the opportunity to vote on the law passed by the 2011 legislature to dismantle medical marijuana access. The initiative was put on the ballot by the efforts of medical marijuana advocates.

Some trivia:

The ballot item most voters voted on was the Tester/Rehberg race for Montana’s lone Senate seat: 486,098 votes

The number of voters who voted on I-124: 469,631

The number of voters who skipped voting on I-124: 16,467

If all those who skipped voting on I-124 voted against the initiative, the number the initiative still would have passed by is: 51,610 votes

There were 16 ballot items that all Montana voters had the opportuniy to vote on. The three items that received the  least attention from voters (were skipped on the ballot)

  1. Supreme Court Justice #6 Brian Morris yes/no: 418,898I-166
  2. Supreme Court Justice# 5 McKinnon/Sheehy: 419,691
  3. Clerk of the Supreme Court Smith/Fellows: 429,870I-124

I-124 came in 6th for least voted on ballot item.

In September, the poll most referenced by I-124 sponsoring group, Patients for Reform Not Repeal, indicated 30% against the initiative and 46% for. These numbers were often presented by the group as “good” numbers as it is generally believed an initiative needs 60% going in to win and that the undecided or confused would break “against.” About 25% were undecided.

Of the undecideds (about 121,524 voters):

About 14% remained undecided

About 65%  voted against

About 37% voted for

I-124 passsed by 14.5% with 57.25% for and 42.75 against for a net gain of about 1.5% against the initiative since the September poll.

Only Galletin county reached 50% for an “against” vote on I-124 at 50.10%

9 counties broke 45% against I-124

Top three counties for an “against” vote:

Gallatin: 50.10%

Park: 49.85%

Missoula: 49.25%

Overall outcomes:

  • Success of  an initiative advocates wanted to fail
  • SB 423  supported by voters
  • The campaign serves a tool to club the advocates with (“the voters’ will”)
  • Advocates can’t claim it passed because voters didn’t understand because when those opposed to medical marijuana said it was confusing, PFRNR suggested their  inability to understand the ballot was a matter of them being too dumb to understand it. (Of course, it was confusing. Obfuscating, even. Everybody knows that. The crafters knew that. It was discussed as confusing since  July/August of 2011 . If “confusing” was a strategy, whether it was or wasn’t a “bad” strategy might be debated. But empirically, it was a failed one.  However, crafters say this wasn’t the case.)
  • The data from the election provides very little information about support for reasonable marijuana legislation and medical access because of the language. With the signature gathering campaign to get I-124 on the ballot, for example, even if it had failed, it provided a resource  – a list of names of people willing to sign in a supportive way a petition regarding marijuana. Even if some were signing from a voters’ rights perspective, the fact that it was about marijuana didn’t scare them off. If the election data had meaning it could be used to discuss with future candidates the level of support in their districts. It provides some information as is, but not much and it’s not reliable. Losing isn’t always losing if you get something out of it, and in a long term movement, a campaign should be designed from the start to make sure that happens.  That way, even a defeat gives you something to build on. All this left was a wake of floating junk.

This is a bad outcome. Blame is silly. Evaluation is important. Many citizen-advocates of Montana have worked hard and many far beyond the call of any duty. Patients for Reform Not Repeal and Montana First are the same folks, from both in-state and out-of-state. Same bankroll. This outcome was foreseen from more than a year out as the likely result without the proper follow-thru. Their legalization initiative earlier this year was another effort that failed to pan out not because of lack of support in the electorate, but lack of strategy, poor interpersonal relations, and failed implementation. At least $100,000 has been wasted. Those with the purse run the show. If they will continue to be doing so in Montana, hopefully, there will be some evaluation of efforts and some troubleshooting so that future efforts might be more successful.

At this time, the Montana Cannabis Industry Association’s (MTCIA)  lawsuit, once again, is the only tool for protecting access.

On the success side, two critical elections in Montana do appear to have been impacted by the cannabis voter. In the Governor’s race, Steve Bullock won by a narrow 1.55%.  Up until quite late in the race, single issue cannabis voters were intending to withhold their vote or throw it to Libertarian candidate Ron Vandevender who received 3.75 % of the vote. When Bullock came out against I-124, many Democrat- leaning cannabis voters threw their support his way. Rick Hill did not give Republican-leaning cannabis voters the same choice. In this Red-leaning state, it is no stretch to see the cannabis vote, both for Bullock and Vanevender, having had played a decisive role in the race.

In the race for Montana’s lone Senate seat, Libertarian candidate Dan Cox earned a respectable 6.55% of the vote. Though neither Tester nor Rehberg were considered good on the cannabis issue, Cox’s pro-cannabis position pulled votes from the Rehberg pile handing Tester the race by 3.73%. So though not electing a pro-cannabis candidate, the cannabis vote, nonetheless, demonstrated the ability to tip an election, and despite the outcome on I-124, the cannabis vote proved its mettle.

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2 thoughts on “Guest Post: Election 2012 Marijuana in Montana

  1. Pingback: Montana Democrats Bicker Over Medicaid Strategy Means More Predictable Failure | 4&20 blackbirds

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