A Montana state Senate legislative committee last week voted to set aside a bill that would have lowered potency limits on regulated medical cannabis
Had it become law, the bill would have reinstated the prohibition of adult-use cannabis, which was legalized by Montana voters in 2020 with the passage of Initiative 190, a ballot measure that was approved with 57% of the vote.
The bill also would have raised the tax on medical marijuana from 4% to 20%. But even with the added tax burden thrust on patients, a fiscal note on the legislation estimated the bill would result in a loss of $25 million to $28 million in revenue generated for the state’s general fund each year by taxes on recreational marijuana. The shortfall would cut funding for several state programs funded by cannabis taxes and result in a significant loss of revenue for local governments.
Opponents of the bill maintained that banning non-medical sales of cannabis would reinvigorate the state’s market for illicit marijuana.
Opponents Of Bill Testify At Montana Senate Committee Hearing
At a hearing on the bill held by the Senate Business, Labor and Economic Affairs Committee on March 23, opponents of Senate Bill 546 said that repealing the legalization of adult-use cannabis would reverse the will of the voters as expressed with the passage of Initiative 190.
“I just think it’s good not to make voters think that their voice doesn’t count,” Montana Cannabis Industry Association spokesperson
Katrina Farnum, the owner of Garden Mother, a cannabis dispensary in Missoula, said the bill would harm patients who use cannabis medicinally but buy recreational products because they are more accessible and of higher quality.
“This bill would completely erase the entire legal cannabis industry in Montana, eliminating thousands of jobs, erasing all of the tax money allocated for various state programs, bankrupt local business owners, and create a thriving black market of untested, unregulated drugs and associated behaviors,”
Nicole Hobday, a former cannabis industry employee who testified in opposition to the bill at last week’s hearing, said the legislation was a waste of time and taxpayer resources that would harm people’s health and businesses in the state.
“This bill is obvious, frivolous culture war,” said Hobday. “It’s an obvious losing battle that the people of Montana have already spoken on multiple times.”
Several senators on the committee expressed reservations about the growing cannabis industry in Montana since recreational marijuana was legalized in 2020. Others said that they are concerned about the potency of legal cannabis products, including cannabis flower approaching 40% THC and concentrates that have 90% THC or more.
“I wished we focused a little more on potency in this issue,” Democratic
Republican Sen. Jason Small, the chair of the committee, said that he supports some parts of Senate Bill 546. He added that the legislation was not ready to be passed during the current legislative session but did not rule out a similar proposal in the future.
“There’s some good stuff in here, but it would take a considerable amount of time to get this thing whipped into shape,” said Small. “We can take some of these ideas and still be able to move them along.”