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Montana Legislators Agree Limited Recreational Marijuana Bill

Despite opposition from cannabis opponents, Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte signed House Bill 701 into law on Wednesday, May 19th, 2021.

However, the final Bill is not exactly what the industry was hoping for, although during the protracted negotiations there were fears that the legislation could fail altogether.  This, despite Initiative 190, the ballot measure approved by voters last year, having been supported by 58% of the votes cast.

Supporters say this one of the biggest victories in the history of marijuana prohibition in Montana considering much of the Republican-controlled Legislature had no interest in supporting an implementation bill not to mention the state’s long history of trying to regulate cannabis companies out of business.

The final legislation comes with a number of changes to the original proposal. These include:-

  • Delaying the start of recreational marijuana sales to 1st January 2022 from the proposed date of the 1st October 2021
  • An adult use potency cap on flower of 35%
  • A potency cap of 100 milligrams per package for edibles and 800 milligrams per package for topicals.
  • A reduction in the number of plants grown at home from 4 to 2.
  • Allowing existing Medical Marijuana business 18 months freedom to sell recreational product ahead of allowing new ventures to obtain licenses.

One other concern is the change of oversight from the Department of Public Health and Human Services to the Department of Revenue. This switch seems to indicate an emphasis on taxing the industry. This new oversight will also have until the 1st of October to determine the final adult-use rules, so there are still a number of unanswered questions as to how the final regulations will appear and how they will be enforced.

For an adult use-dispensary, there will be a 20% tax on the retail price of marijuana products and live marijuana plants. Medical marijuana is currently taxed at 4%.

One point the Montana marijuana industry is concerned about is whether there will be sufficient product to satisfy customer demand when recreational sales begin on the 1st of January. Their concern is that if demand takes off, as they suspect it will, there will not be enough growing facilities to meet the requirements of new consumers.

Although many in the industry are somewhat disappointed at the restrictions that have been incorporated in the legislation most believe it is workable and at least provides some basis for ongoing planning for the future.

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