Pot, anti-abortion initiatives fail to qualify for ballot

2012-07-20T18:20:00Z 2012-07-20T22:12:16Z Pot, anti-abortion initiatives fail to qualify for ballotBy CHARLES S. JOHNSON Gazette State Bureau The Billings Gazette

HELENA — Two hot-button proposed constitutional initiatives — one to decriminalize marijuana for adults and the other to ban abortion through a “personhood” amendment — failed to qualify for the November ballot.

Secretary of State Linda McCulloch said backers of the two groups didn’t appear to have obtained enough votes to qualify them for the ballot, but county election officials had until 5 p.m. Friday to submit signatures to her office for tabulation.

However, backers of the pro-marijuana and anti-abortion measures conceded Friday that they failed to gather enough signatures.

The general election ballot will have two citizen-initiated measures. In addition, four legislative referendums will appear on the ballot. 

Constitutional Initiative 110 would have amended the state constitution to decriminalize the sale, use and possession of marijuana by adults.

“We didn’t make it,” said Barb Trego of East Helena, CI-110’s sponsor. “We just ran out of time. We just got going too late.”

Trego said the CI-110 backers had to change the proposal’s language at least three times because of objections by state officials. That delayed their signature-gathering efforts.

“We’re not giving up,” she said. “When we do it the next time, we’ll be more prepared. We already have the language.”

As of Friday afternoon, McCulloch’s office said CI-110 backers had collected 17,878 signatures of the 48,674 needed to qualify and had gathered the signatures of 10 percent of the voters in only five of the 40 required House districts out of the 100 total districts.

In response, Cherrie Brady, of Billings, founder and chair of Safe Community Safe Kids, which tried to repeal the medical marijuana statute, said she believes Montanans “have learned their lessons with the marijuana law.”

“It wasn’t what they anticipated or thought it was going to be,” Brady said. “I just think they have grown wiser, and they’re not as easy to get things by.”

The Montana ProLife Coalition failed to put CI-108 on the ballot. It would have amended the constitution to define a person to include “all human beings at every stage of biological development, including fertilization or conception.”

“Montana ProLife Coalition will continue to pursue personhood for the unborn,” said Annie Bukacek, a Kalispell physician and president of the group. “Personhood is the only type of pro-life legislation that seeks to protect all innocent human life. It is uncompromising, based on a concept every sensible person grasps: Equal protection under the law.”

Bukacek said the group “will continue the fight, and then some.” It is now focusing on the promotion of “uncompromising pro-life candidates” and looks forward to the 2013 Legislature, she said.

The secretary of state’s office said CI-108 had obtained 23,512 of the needed 48,674 signatures and had the signatures of 10 percent of the voters in 12 of the 40 districts.

In response, Julianna Crowley, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Montana said it’s the third time backers of the “personhood” measure have failed to get enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.

“Once again, anti-choice activists showed themselves to be out of the mainstream on issues of reproductive health and privacy,” Crowley said. “Montanans don’t want to roll the dice when it comes to their constitutional rights or put the health and safety of the women in their lives in jeopardy — and that’s exactly what this amendment would do.”

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