Montana’s medical cannabis program continues its transition to a regulatory environment


Last update: November 5, 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. Rules cover a broad range of requirements, including testing, labeling, tracking products “from seed to sale,” and many others.

Montana’s history with medical cannabis has been a difficult one. For a period of several years, lawmakers made efforts to shut down the popular state program, first by repealing the law — an effort vetoed by the governor — and later by passing a law that was largely unworkable. At one point in 2012, federal law enforcement swept through the state, shutting down dozens of businesses. But patients, advocates, and businesses persevered. Legal challenges were leveled against the new medical cannabis law, and finally voters stepped in and supported a voter initiative with sensible changes in 2016. The following legislative session, lawmakers made further revisions. Since then, the state has been rolling out revised rules, and businesses have been adjusting to the new regulatory environment. Above all, patients no longer have to wonder if the program will survive.

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. The process is expected to continue for much of the year.

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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