Montana Tops $200 Million in First Year of Recreational Pot Sales

A big opening year in Montana.

Montana raked in more than $200 million in its first year of recreational cannabis sales, the state reported this week.

The Montana Department of Revenue released figures detailing how much money was generated in both medical and recreational marijuana sales in 2022.

Last year marked the launch of the state’s recreational marijuana market. Voters there legalized medical cannabis in 2004. 

The Department of Revenue said that adult-use marijuana sales totaled $202,947,328 in 2022, while medical cannabis sales amounted to $93,616,551.

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. 

The state levies a 20% take on recreational pot sales, and a 4% tax on medical marijuana.

The Department of Revenue said all figures were estimates. 

Voters in Montana approved a ballot measure in 2020 to legalize recreational cannabis, one of four states that year where voters passed legalization proposals. The law took effect in 2021.

 “Since January, we’ve been focused on implementing the will of Montana voters in a safe, responsible, and appropriately regulated manner. House Bill 701 accomplishes this,” Gov. Greg Gianforte said in May of 2021, as quoted by local news station KTVH. “From the start, I’ve been clear that we need to bring more resources … to combat the drug epidemic that’s devastating our communities.”

Chief among Gianforte’s concerns with the new law was the creation of the HEART Fund, which subsidizes substance abuse treatment in Montana with revenue from recreational marijuana sales. 

“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,” Gianforte said after signing the bill into law in 2021, as quoted by KTVH.

As in other states that have ended the prohibition on pot use for adults, Montana’s new law contains a component to redress harms that have resulted from the War on Drugs. 

The law “authorizes courts to either resentence or expunge marijuana offenses now considered legal or lesser offenses, but does not enact an automatic expungement process,” according to Montana Free Press, but the “the expungement policy has faced criticism as cumbersome and unclear.”

In March of last year, the state Supreme Court issued temporary rules intended to help clarify the expungement application procedure.

The law says that “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,” according to the Missoula Current.

The biggest clarification issued by the Montana Supreme Court, the Missoula Current noted, was to inform individuals that “they could submit their expungement request to the court where they were originally sentenced.”

After President Joe Biden issued pardons to everyone with a federal conviction for marijuana possession in October of last year, he encouraged all states to follow his lead. 

A spokesperson for Gianforte told the Montana Free Press at the time that the “governor will continue to evaluate clemencies submitted through the Board of Pardons and Parole on a case-by-case basis, in accordance with [state] statute.”

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