Cannabis is an incredibly useful plant that has been used for thousands of years. Originally, it was used for spiritual purposes, but it has been seen as a miracle drug for centuries. When it was first introduced to the American people, cannabis was not a drug, but a medicine. When cannabis was outlawed in the U.S., it was for the purposes of protecting the public.

Since the federal government doesn’t have anywhere near the power that states have, and since it’s still too early to tell whether or not the Trump administration will continue the Obama-era policy of not interfering with state-level legalization efforts, the future of cannabis legalization looks bright in Montana.

For some, this latest development regarding recreational marijuana is long overdue, as residents of the state have always been supportive of adult-use marijuana. Montana will decriminalize cannabis use for adults. The state has long had a very strong medical marijuana program. And with this new development, the state Department of Finance appears poised to tackle the medical marijuana system and develop an effective industry for adult use, as outlined in House Bill 701. Governor Greg Gianforte signed 701 into law on the 18th. of May, after the legislature approved it last month.

Precursor to this development

Montana has legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes since 2004. For some, this latest development regarding recreational marijuana is long overdue, as residents of the state have always been supportive of adult-use marijuana. Photo KeithBinns/Getty Images word-image-5463 In the 2020 election, cannabis reform initiatives were on the ballot in Montana. Residents of the state took to the streets to show their support for the initiative and the measure received more than 50 percent support. In doing so, Montana became one of only five U.S. states to pass a cannabis reform initiative before the 2020 election. That approved measure – ballot initiative I-190 – allowed all state residents over the age of 21 to possess and use marijuana for recreational purposes. A 20 percent tax has been levied on all cannabis sales in Montana, which will then be used to expand a statewide drug prevention program. Another aspect of the initiative is to remove some marijuana offenses and allow convicted inmates to appeal their convictions.

Currently…

Adult residents of the state may not possess more than one ounce of marijuana for personal use. If the initiatives pass in November and are approved in early 2021, the only way to get recreational cannabis is to seed it. Some have considered importing these products from other states where they are allowed, but this would be a violation of federal law. You can only grow your own plants. Residents may not grow more than four marijuana plants.

HB 701

Existing medical marijuana dispensaries are going to make a lot of money at the end of the year. The bill only allows these existing stores to sell recreational drugs to the public until the official sale of cannabis for adult use begins in 2022. You have an 18-month advance. So the new licensed stores will start selling in the third quarter of 2023. It would also give Treasury plenty of time to make rules. Photo FatCamera/Getty Images word-image-5464 As part of this bill, the limit on the number of cannabis plants residents can grow themselves has been lowered. The new law states that a household can only grow four plants, while an individual can only grow two. Residents who cannot grow their own marijuana will have to wait until January 2022, when existing medical dispensaries will begin selling marijuana to residents without medical records. The bill also states that residents caught transporting cannabis products under unsafe conditions could be fined up to $100. All transported products must be in their original packaging and stored in the boot or in the glove compartment. Smokers in public places also risk fines of up to $50, as the law prohibits smoking marijuana in public places. Although the state promises to designate places or establishments where cannabis may be consumed. HB 701 only allows the cultivation of marijuana with a THC content of 35% or less. Edibles and capsules may not contain more than 100 milligrams of THC per capsule. The total THC content of a package of capsules or supplements may not exceed 800 milligrams. The bill covers all aspects related to the sale of recreational cannabis, from the creation of a new regulatory body to the setting of permissible THC levels. The implementation of this law will take time and much work needs to be done to successfully implement it.

What is planned for the coming months?

The I-190 project already provides for a disposal system for legal cannabis products. A few tweaks here and there will be enough to make the system robust enough to handle the huge sales that will come with the launch. The Department of Revenue is charged with regulating new cannabis businesses licensed in the state. The Department will issue permits for the cultivation, production, sale, laboratory testing and transportation of cannabis products in the state. Photo: Cavan Images/Getty Images word-image-5465 Currently, the legislature plans to use these funds for veterans’ fees and maintenance of parks and trails. There is talk that these funds could also be used to purchase conservation lands in Montana. These plans are subject to change as meetings continue to be held to discuss alternative conservation strategies or discovery expenditures. There is also concern that the 20% sales tax will encourage some residents to turn to the black market. That’s why some advocates argue for a lower tax rate. Governor Gianforte’s statement shows his commitment to fighting the drug epidemic in the state. His office promises to fund several drug prevention programs in Montana communities. These funds also give Montanans who want to stop using drugs a chance to get sober. Most of these programs will be non-profit. The Governor also emphasized that Bill 701 is the best way to implement the will of the Montanans in a responsible and orderly manner.

Last words

It’s the beginning of a new era in Montana. While this is just the beginning and it remains to be seen if any of the districts will opt out of the new reforms, the Department of Finance is preparing to administer all marijuana programs in the state, bringing in staff from the Department of Health to help things run smoothly. However it turns out, Montana will make a lot of money.

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