Rules go into effect for cannabis businesses, many for the first time


Last update: May 29, 2018


While Montana’s state lawmakers are not in session in 2018, regulators continue the process of implementing new regulations for businesses that serve medical cannabis patients. These changes have not been without controversy for many, as new requirements related to testing, labeling, and seed-to-sale inventory tracking are implemented. Most of these rules are being implemented for the first time since voters adopted a medical marijuana program in 2004.

While Montana voters have been consistently supportive of their medical marijuana program, state lawmakers have not. After a failed effort to kill the state program, lawmakers instead opted for making the program as difficult as possible for patients. The result was years of litigation, including two hearings before the Montana Supreme Court, which once again placed the program at risk. Ultimately, in November 2016, voters stepped in and clearly established a regulatory framework for businesses and support for a functional program. Many of the rules being implemented now follow changes adopted by voters in 2016 and additional changes later made by lawmakers following the 2016 vote.

Regulators, businesses, and the patients they both serve continue to look for the right level of regulation to balance state interests with the financial burden those regulations can place on patients.

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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