New medical marijuana rules go into effect in Montana

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Medical marijuana providers in Montana will start testing, labeling and tracking their products as new rules take effect Tuesday for state officials to keep close tabs on cannabis plants from seedlings until they’re sold.

The sweeping regulations cover everything from employee ID badges to pesticide testing.

Kate Cholewa, spokeswoman for the Montana Cannabis Industry Association, said MMJ businesses have been preparing for the new rules but won’t know if they are fully in compliance until they are inspected.

Some rules have not been finalized or are being delayed.

For instance, the state Department of Public Health and Human Services is granting a 20-day “grace period” from pesticide testing to give providers a little more time.

Regulators are still rewriting other rules, such as how much marijuana a provider can have. Lawmakers complained that the original limit of 50 square feet of canopy space per patient was too much.

Also, online systems for provider licensing and the tracking of plants will be implemented gradually. Providers don’t have to go through the new licensing process until their annual renewal is due or by Dec. 31, whichever comes first.

Each new harvest of marijuana will have to be sent to a licensed laboratory for testing by the 577 state registered marijuana providers. Providers with 10 or fewer patients aren’t required to test their marijuana until 2020.

Two of the four labs in the state have licenses and the other two have until the end of April to get theirs, a health department spokesman said.

A late change in the rules will also allow registered cardholders to consume marijuana at dispensaries, but Cholewa said providers have not considered opening lounges or other areas for customers to use their products.

– Associated Press