BILLINGS — In an election scheduled for Nov. 2, Billings voters will decide whether to allow recreational marijuana dispensaries into the city limits after the Billings City Council approved the ballot language at its Monday meeting.
The Council’s move toward an election on recreational dispensaries comes a week after a similar decision failed at a Yellowstone County Board of Commissioners meeting. About a month ago, the Council directed city staff to research ballot language in preparation for the possible failure at the county level.
Billings Mayor Bill Cole said for him, the decision hinged on whether the voters had truly spoken on the issue in the 2020 General Election.
Last year, Montana voters passed Initiative 190, a short ballot question that legalized marijuana across the state. Then the Montana Legislature crafted House Bill 701, a considerably longer law which solidified the rules for legal marijuana in the state. The bill gave much of the power over legal marijuana implementation to city and county governments.
“I do not feel comfortable inserting my judgment for the judgment of those voters on this question of dispensaries. I’d like to hear what the voters have to say because whatever happens here is likely going to set the course of our policy maybe for the next 30 or 40 years and I don’t want Steve Zabawa back there saying to me, ‘Why didn’t you let the voters really tell us exactly what they want,'” Cole said.
MTN News / Mitch Lagge A marijuana bud begins to form on a plant at Montana Advanced Caregivers medical marijuana dispensary in Billings.
Zabawa is the executive director of SAFE Montana, a group opposed to marijuana legalization, and attended the Council meeting. He spoke during the public comment period and said I-190 was backed in 2020 by millions in