Updated on December 30, 2021.
Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
During the November 2020 election, the state question regarding legalizing adult-use was posed to Montana voters. And 58% of voters endorsed the legalization of recreational cannabis. Medical cannabis in the state was already legalized in 2004.
Now the countdown to adult-use sales in Montana is almost over. Residents aged twenty-one (21) years and older will be able to legally purchase cannabis. Without a medical card. There have been several infrastructure and regulatory changes in Montana pertaining to cannabis production, use, and retail sales. Everything is set to launch on January 1, 2022.
If you live in Montana, there are a few things you should know about the new adult-use laws. Including the type of cannabis products that will be available. And for some, there will be a surprise as many counties opted out of recreational cannabis. Meaning a long drive to another county, to purchase cannabis products.
Will You Be Able to Grow Your Own Cannabis in Montana?
Yes. Under the new legislation, adults who are over the age of 21 years will be able to grow a maximum of two cannabis plants at home. However, patients who have a medical card are permitted to grow up to four mature plants, and an additional four seedlings.
Before you rush to set up your home-grow, there are a few things you need to know. First, your plants cannot be visible to the public. Thinking of planting them in the backyard? If someone can see the plants on your property, it is against the law. You will have to have them in a greenhouse if you want to grow outdoors. Or use a grow tent or space buckets inside your garage or home to cultivate instead.
Adults aged twenty-one (21) and older will be able to possess up to one ounce of marijuana. Possession of more than that can still result in misdemeanor charges.
Where Can You Use Cannabis in Montana?
Consuming cannabis in public will remain illegal. That includes outside of your home, or in a vehicle, and in any public place. As in other states, and regardless of the legalization of adult-use in Montana, cannabis possession or use on federal lands, waters or properties will remain a felony offense.
If you are staying in a hospital, and you have a medical card, you may be permitted to use cannabis. In non-smokable forms, such as edibles, tinctures, or capsules. Wherever smoking is prohibited, cannabis use is not allowed.
Wholesaling of Cannabis Will Now Be Legal
When the medical cannabis program was legalized in 2004, all cultivators and retailers had to be vertically integrated. That means, any business licensed to sell cannabis in a dispensary, had to produce and process the cannabis used to manufacture the products.
Patients with a medical card were tethered to a cannabis provider. Or, in other words, patients had to designate a dispensary. And they could only purchase from that dispensary. That has changed now in Montana, under the new adult-use legislation. Both patients and adult-use purchases will now be permitted at any licensed dispensary. That makes it easier for patients. And essential for patients who live in counties that did not opt-in to adult-use.
What Are the Projections for Cannabis Sales in Montana?
The Office of Budget and Program Planning in Montana has estimated sales of recreational cannabis in 2022 to reach $133 million. In 2023, sales are expected to reach $195 million. In 2023, the moratorium on new cannabis business licenses will be over. And that means new businesses and multistate operators will be able to purchase licenses to enter the Montana cannabis market.
If sales of medical and recreational cannabis exceed projections in Montana, there could be a supply and demand problem. Because some states experience difficulties during the first year of adult-use legalization, underestimating the demand for recreational cannabis products.
Recreational Cannabis Will Not Be Available in Every County
Montana voters endorsed adult-use, and legislators have made it legal to purchase starting January 1, 2022. But that doesn’t mean that recreational cannabis will be available to buy in every jurisdiction across the state of Montana.
When a state legalizes adult-use, there is the opportunity for communities to opt out. However, if they do not want to see dispensaries in their county, they may prohibit the licensing of cannabis businesses. That also includes cultivators (growers), processors, and manufacturers.
During the 2021 legislative session in Montana, a provision was added to House Bill 701. It stated that if local voters did not support Initiative 190 (I-190) that voters in that jurisdiction would have the freedom to decide. Counties could hold an additional public vote to decide whether they wanted to opt-in.
According to a local news outlet, KTVH, half of the 56 counties in Montana actually voted against adult-use legalization. And that means 50% of Montana residents will not be seeing dispensaries in their towns or cities.