Regulators in Montana last week issued a slate of proposed rules for the state’s coming recreational marijuana marketplace, and cannabis advocates are excited to get started.
Pot sales for adults aged 21 and older are scheduled to get underway on New Year’s Day in Big Sky Country, which means the clock is ticking for the Montana Department of Revenue to lay out regulations for the would-be cannabis businesses.
“The deadlines are aggressive,” said Kristan Barbour, administrator of the Department of Revenue’s Cannabis Control Division, as quoted by local television station KTVH. “Really, the rules are our biggest challenge.”
The Department of Revenue will hold a public hearing in the capital city of Helena on November 16 to consider adoption of the proposed rules.
“Our focus was really to be business-friendly and to try to work with the industry in a fashion that makes the rules adaptable to their current business structure and that they’ll be able to evolve into without a whole lot of pain,” Barbour told KTVH.
Voters in Montana passed a proposal at the ballot last year to legalize adult-use marijuana, one of four states to vote to end pot prohibition in the 2020 election. (Arizona, New Jersey and South Dakota were the others).
In the spring, lawmakers in Montana passed a bill to implement the voter-approved legal pot program, which Republican Governor Greg Gianforte signed into law in mid-May.
The legislation, known as House Bill 701, “implements and regulates the recreational marijuana program that voters approved in a ballot initiative last year and funds a substance abuse prevention program that the new governor has championed since his first days in office,” the Daily Montanan reported at the time.
In a statement after signing the bill, Gianforte touted the HEART Fund, which will take revenue from the adult-use weed program to help fund substance abuse treatment. He stands behind this organization and feels they play a big part in the future of legalization in the state.
“From the start, I’ve been clear that we need to bring more resources to bear to combat the drug epidemic that’s devastating our communities,” Gianforte said at the time. “Funding a full continuum of substance abuse prevention and treatment programs for communities, the HEART Fund will offer new support to Montanans who want to get clean, sober and healthy.”
The proposed rules unveiled by the state’s Department of Revenue last week cover 15 different sections related to the implementation of the program: license, application and renewal fees; marijuana manufacturer licenses; marijuana cultivator licenses; marijuana dispensary licenses; marijuana transporter licenses; combined use licenses; marijuana testing laboratory licenses; marijuana storage facility endorsement; worker permits; general labeling requirements; labeling requirements for marijuana flower; labeling of ingestible marijuana-infused products; labeling of non-ingestible marijuana-infused products; labeling requirements for marijuana concentrates and extracts and packaging requirements.
Montana voters initially legalized medical marijuana treatment back in 2004. They approved the recreational pot measure in 2020 with 57 percent support.
And there are yet more pot-related questions on the ballot this year for certain Montana voters. According to KTVH, “voters in Missoula and Yellowstone Counties could endorse a 3 percent, local option tax on recreational sales, medical sales or both,” while voters “in Billings will vote whether to allow or prohibit adult-use marijuana dispensaries within city limits.”
As reported by the Daily Montanan, the new law allows the one-half of state counties that approved last year’s ballot initiative to “have recreational in their borders by default, while voters in the the other half of counties will have to take an affirmative action to bring recreational marijuana in their boundaries if so desired.”