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Monday, May 29, 2023

Will states begin to reverse marijuana legalization?

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In a move that could severely affect Montana’s nascent cannabis industry, Republican Sen. Keith Riegier has introduced a bill that would effectively dismantle the state’s recreational sales program just over a year after it was launched.

The proposed legislation, Senate Bill 546, aims to curb adult use dispensaries by imposing stringent restrictions that not only limit medical marijuana allotments, but also eliminate recreational sales, the Montana Free Press reports.

Senate Bill 546

Proposed Senate Bill 546 could dramatically transform the marijuana market in Montana, with its primary focus on breaking up adult use dispensaries. However, that’s not all — the bill also seeks to increase the state tax on medical marijuana by a whopping 400% while imposing strict limits on potency and possession of amounts for medical use.

While sales of non-medical marijuana are prohibited by law, it does not make adult possession illegal. What’s more, the bill would cut the number of mature plants adults can grow in the home by half, from two to just one.

Despite numerous requests for comment, Regier, the sponsor of SB 546, remained unresponsive at the time of writing. However, if the bill passes into law, it could greatly affect the cannabis business in Montana, leading to a significant drop in potential consumers and revenue for the state. The industry has contributed more than $54 million in tax revenue to state coffers since adult use sales began in January 2022, with less than a tenth of that amount coming from medical marijuana taxes. Currently, recreational customers pay a 20% state tax, and some counties charge an additional 3% local tax.

Sales data indicates that under SB 546, the cannabis industry would have contributed just over $20 million in tax revenue, less than half of what it has generated so far. However, the potential consequences of the bill extend far beyond financial losses. According to Montana Canna owner Zach Block, a dispensary in Kalispell, the proposed legislation would make the entire cannabis program meaningless to operators, patients and consumers alike, offering a substandard product to a small group of people while ignoring the needs of the majority. Block shared these concerns with MTFP.

SB 546 also includes several provisions that restrict the potency of marijuana products under the medical program. While the current law prohibits the sale of flowers with more than 35% THC, the proposed bill would lower that limit to just 10%. In addition, the bill cuts the amount of THC allowed in edible products in half, from 10 milligrams to just 5 milligrams. Concentrated marijuana extracts will also be required to contain no more than 10% THC.

In addition to limiting the potency of medical marijuana products, SB 546 also restricts the amount of marijuana a medical patient can purchase. While the current law allows patients to purchase up to five ounces per month or the equivalent in other forms such as foods and tinctures, the proposed law would reduce that limit to just one ounce.

Legalization of recreational cannabis in Montana

Montana joins Arizona and New Jersey in approving a A ballot legalizing recreational cannabis takes place through November 2020 election cycle. Montana is now among the 14 states that have legalized recreational marijuana use, with Republicans controlling the governor’s office and both legislatures. This political formation places the fate of cannabis-related legislation in the hands of the Republican Party.

While the state has made great progress in creating a thriving cannabis industry, with more than 130 dispensaries currently operating throughout Montana, the recent filing of SB 546 has cast uncertainty over the future of the industry.

In January 2020, marijuana activists affiliated with New Approach Montana took a significant step toward legalizing cannabis in Montana by filing the Montana I-190. This ballot initiative sought to legalize recreational marijuana use in the state. The initiative gained momentum, and on August 13, the Secretary of State confirmed that she had qualified for the November ballot, paving the way for voters to have their say on the issue.

On November 3, 2020, Montana residents went to the polls and voted on I-190, eventually passing the ballot procedure to legalize recreational cannabis in the state.. Passing I-190 marks a major victory for marijuana advocates in Montana, who have been pushing for cannabis reform for many years. By legalizing recreational cannabis, the state has opened up new opportunities for cannabis companies and entrepreneurs while providing greater access to cannabis products for adults who choose to use it.

As of January 1, 2021, individuals 21 years of age or older can possess and use up to 28 grams, or one ounce, of marijuana. However, consuming or keeping the material in public areas and specific locations is still prohibited, including on federal lands and waters governed by federal law. This applies to both the recreational and medicinal use of marijuana.

Montana’s medical marijuana program allows approved providers to offer marijuana products to cardholders who are enrolled in the program. While cardholders can legally own up to one ounce, or 28 grams, of marijuana, they are also allowed to purchase up to five ounces, or 140 grams, within a 30-day period. However, it is necessary to note that distribution of the substance to non-cardholders is still illegal.


Montana’s journey toward legalizing recreational marijuana has been a long and winding road. From introducing Montana’s I-190 ballot initiative to passing the bill in November 2020, the state has come a long way in terms of cannabis reform.

The passage of I-190 signaled a significant shift in public opinion regarding marijuana use in Montana. It marked a significant milestone in the ongoing fight for cannabis reform in the United States. While the introduction of SB 546 threatens to stifle the growth of the cannabis industry in the state, the progress made so far cannot be denied. It remains to be seen what the future holds for the cannabis industry in Montana, but one thing is for sure — residents of the state have spoken.

Momentum toward the legalization of recreational marijuana shows no signs of slowing. As the debate over cannabis reform continues across the country, Montana’s trip is a shining example of how change can be achieved through the power of the ballot box.

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