Montana scrambles to finish rules by Jan. 1 recreational marijuana launch

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Montana lawmakers and recreational marijuana regulators are still trying to agree on final rules as a Jan. 1 sales launch date rapidly approaches.

Rulemaking was expected to have been finished by Oct. 1.

According to Helena TV station KTVH, the sticking points don’t appear to be huge, but they include disagreement with these proposed rules by the Montana Department of Revenue:

  • Allow outdoor growers that were grandfathered into the adult-use program to increase their cultivation space.
  • Enable the state’s eight Native American tribes to cultivate only in the smallest allowable area.
  • Allow stores to label products “cannabis” rather than “marijuana.”
  • Establish license renewal fees that some lawmakers deem are too high.

“Since this is such an important issue for the state of Montana, it’s our obligation to make sure it’s 100% accurate, 100% within the intent of the Legislature – that our legislative intent is met for the people of Montana,” Sen. Jason Ellsworth told KTVH.

“That is our job, and our job alone.”

Regulators already have removed some restrictive language, such as a provision that would have barred stores from selling CBD oil and other hemp-derived products, according to the TV station.

Advocates had complained that the Legislature watered down the adult-use law approved by voters in 2020 and had delayed the market launch from Oct. 1, 2021, to Jan. 1, 2022.

A legislative committee is set to meet next week, with a goal of finalizing regulations by the upcoming holiday season.

“If history is any guide, I say we’ve got sales starting in three weeks and to expect the unexpected,” Kate Cholewa of the Montana Cannabis Industry Association told KTVH.

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The 2021 MJBizFactbook projected first-year sales at $90 million, with annual sales growing to $325 million by the fourth year of the program.

Montana’s recreational marijuana legislation gives existing medical cannabis businesses an 18-month head start to sell adult-use products.