Businesses left with uncertainty as state delays rules

 

Last update: September 18, 2017

 

Montana’s confusing landscape of evolving rules and regulations continues, as regulators recently indicated they would not finalize rules for the state’s medical cannabis businesses until spring of 2018. This leaves hundreds of businesses across the state without the guidance many expected, while new patients sign up for the program at a near record pace.

Last year, voters overwhelmingly supported a voter initiative to get the state’s program back on track. Some of the most harmful limitations imposed by lawmakers years earlier were removed by voters, and lawmakers themselves made further changes during the legislative session this year, in the form of a bill called HB 333. Many expected the state’s regulatory agency, the Department of Public Health and Human Services, would complete the program’s overhaul in the summer of 2017. Unfortunately, it does not appear the state will offer guidance for some time.

In the absence of direction from the state, many, including members of the cannabis business community, are concerned. Most Montanans can recall 2009 and 2010, when a greatly-increasing number of businesses and patients began to operate without clear direction from the state, resulting in the belief among many (including members of federal law enforcement) that the state program was being abused. We hope the state can develop and adopt rules as soon as possible and avoid the harm that came several years ago.


Montana’s harsh marijuana laws and efforts to change them

 

In Montana, possession of even a single joint for non-medical purposes can land a person in jail for six months, while possession of 60 grams or more (a little over two ounces) can result in a sentence of up to five years. These stiff marijuana penalties cause related negative consequences.

In 2012, there were 1,502 arrests or citations for marijuana-related offenses, 95% of which were for possession. The number of marijuana arrests more than tripled since 2003. At the same time, law enforcement was unable to solve 91% of all burglaries — including home invasions — and over 85% of all motor vehicle thefts. Instead of arresting adults for possession of a product that is safer than alcohol, law enforcement should focus its limited resources on going after real criminals. It’s past time for a better solution. Ask your legislators to support reducing the penalty for possession of cannabis to a civil fine.


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