More than two years after voters approved a measure legalizing recreational cannabis, and more than a year after the launch of the state’s regulated marijuana market, a Montana lawmaker wants to undo all of that.
Last week, Republican state Sen. Keith Regier introduced a bill that includes a slate of reforms to Montana’s cannabis policy, most notably “eliminating adult-use dispensaries.”
According to Montana Free Press, the bill “additionally raises the state tax on medical marijuana from 4% to 20% and puts significant limits on medical marijuana potency and allowable amounts for possession,” and although it would once again prohibit recreational cannabis, it would not “re-criminalize marijuana possession for adults.”
Regier’s bill states plainly its objective: “reduce the demand for marijuana sales.”
“If passed into law, the bill would drastically reduce the potential consumer base for existing marijuana businesses and eliminate a significant source of revenue for state coffers. Since adult-use sales began in January 2022, Montana has generated $54 million in tax revenue from the industry. Less than one-tenth of that revenue came from medical marijuana taxes. Currently, recreational customers pay a 20% tax to the state; some counties add an additional 3% local tax.
The outlet reported that the bill will be the subject of a hearing on Wednesday in the Senate Business, Labor and Economic Affairs Committee.
Nearly 57% of Montana voters approved Initiative 190 in 2020, which legalized marijuana for adults aged 21 and older, and also laid the groundwork for cannabis sales to be taxed.
Recreational cannabis sales launched last year, bringing in more than $200 million to the state in 2022.
According to the state, recreational marijuana sales amounted to $202,947,328 in 2022, while medical cannabis sales totaled $93,616,551. (Voters in Montana legalized medical marijuana treatment in 2004.)
The two combined to generate a grand total of $303,563,879 in marijuana sales last year.
Montana generated $41,989,466 in tax revenue off recreational pot sales, according to the Department of Revenue, and $3,744,662 in taxes from medical cannabis sales. Combined, the state pulled in $45,734,128 in tax revenue from marijuana sales in 2022.
Marijuana reform has been a hot topic in Montana’s legislative session this year.
Earlier this month, the Business and Labor Committee “heard testimony on two marijuana-related bills,” according to local news station KTVH –– one of which “would prohibit marijuana businesses in Montana from promoting their business or brand in print, over TV and radio or using a billboard,” while the other “would revise the required warning labels that marijuana businesses must put on their products, to say that marijuana use during pregnancy could result in ‘congenital anomalies, and inherited cancers developed by a child later in life.’”
The station reported that the proposed ban on advertising “drew opposition from marijuana businesses and from the Montana Newspaper Association,” with opponents saying that “most people in the industry have gone to great lengths to make sure their advertising follows the current rules, and most of the issues people are concerned about have come from a few bad actors.”
There have been debates over other cannabis bills, too, including one that “would require marijuana growers and manufacturers of marijuana products to install air filtration systems to address concerns about odor,” according to KTVH, as well as several proposed bills to change how the state distributes the marijuana tax revenue.
“In particular, they propose removing a section in state law that directs a percentage of taxes from marijuana sales toward Habitat Montana – a program that uses state funds for wildlife habitat conservation projects. Gov. Greg Gianforte has said the program has more than enough funding and no longer needs the marijuana revenue,” the station reported.