Recreational pot sales continue to soar in Big Sky Country, with Montana reporting a record high total last month.
The state’s Department of Revenue reported that adult-use cannabis sales in Montana totaled more than $17 million in the month of June—the highest figure since recreational pot sales began in January.
Between recreational and medical pot, Montana has generated nearly $150 million in combined cannabis sales this year. According to local news station NBC Montana, the combined recreational and medical sales have generated nearly $21 million in state taxes so far this year.
Recreational cannabis is taxed at 20% in Montana, whereas medical cannabis has only a 4% state sales tax.
Not surprisingly, recreational pot sales have outpaced medical cannabis sales in the state.
From January through June, Montana’s new recreational cannabis program has generated $93,747,110, compared with $54,324,681 in medical cannabis sales.
The state had previously projected $130 million in recreational cannabis sales this year, and more than $195 million in 2023.
Recreational pot sales in Montana kicked off to great fanfare on New Year’s Day. It was one of four states that passed ballot measures legalizing adult-use cannabis in 2020 (Arizona, South Dakota, and New Jersey were the other three).
On the opening weekend, cannabis sales totaled more than $1.5 million in Montana.
The local newspaper, the Independent Record, reported at the time that dispensaries in the capital city of Helena “had lines of people packed inside to avoid cold temperatures, while others saw a small but steady stream of foot traffic through noon.”
Local television station KTVH reported that the program launched in January with an “estimated 380 dispensaries in 29 counties are now able to sell marijuana to both medical and recreational customers.”
Following the successful passage of the legalization ballot measure, lawmakers in Montana promptly passed a bill in 2021 that set a framework for recreational cannabis sales in the state.
For Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte, perhaps the most important component of that legislation was the HEART Fund, which will use revenue from the recreational pot program to subsidize substance abuse treatment 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 after signing the legislation. “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 new law also includes a legal mechanism by which individuals previously convicted of certain pot-related offenses can petition to have those records expunged.
In March, the Montana Supreme Court issued temporary rules governing those expungement procedures.
According to the Missoula Current, the new law “says anyone convicted of an offense that would now be legal in the state can petition to have their conviction removed from their record, get a lesser sentence for it or reclassify it to a lesser offense.”
The biggest clarification issued by the state Supreme Court “was letting people know they could submit their expungement request to the court where they were originally sentenced,” according to the Missoula Current.
Beth McLaughlin, the Montana state court administrator, told the Missoula Current, “there had been some confusion because of a separate expungement procedure for misdemeanors that requires all defendants to go through district courts,” but that the law “says courts should presume someone is eligible for expungement unless the county attorney proves otherwise.”
“The interest is to make it easier for litigants,” McLaughlin said, as quoted by the Missoula Current. “The point is to make them as readily available as possible.”