By Gwendolyne Honrud
The Courier 

Marijuana Legal Jan. 1, 2021, Recreational Sales Expected To Begin January, 2022


December 2, 2020

New Year’s Day is right around the corner and 2021 cannot arrive soon enough. One of the reasons many are looking forward to ringing in the new year is the legalization of recreational marijuana. At 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 1, 2021, Montana adults over 21 will be able to send 2020 up in smoke, legally.

Montana voters in November approved Initiative 190, which legalized recreational marijuana, and Constitutional Initiative 118, which amends the state constitution to set the legal age of cannabis consumption at 21. Approximately 60 percent of Montana residents voted in support of the initiatives. Though recreational marijuana will be legal, restrictions will still be in place as state lawmakers iron out the official rules.

“Not gonna work that way, honey,” laughed Deb Lambert, co-owner of CannaOrganics, Valley County’s medical marijuana dispensary, about people who may line up at their door expecting to purchase recreational marijuana immediately. Currently, recreational sales in Montana are not scheduled to start until January, 2022. Rod Lambert, the store’s other co-owner, explained that at this time he is “almost compelled to apply [for a recreational license] when it’s time” but is unsure what the regulations will be and whether he will be allowed to operate a medical and a recreational dispensary in the same building.

While legislators attempt to impose rules on sales of marijuana, adults of legal age will be legally able to possess and use up to one ounce of cannabis flower and up to eight grams of cannabis concentrates. Home grows will also be legal the first of the year. Home growers can possess up to four mature plants and four seedlings per individual, however households will be limited to a maximum of eight plants. “It’s a little ironic people won’t be able to buy from a shop until 2022,” R. Lambert noted before explaining what is expected to happen with the industry.

The state is predicted to begin offering recreational licenses around October, 2021. License sales will first be offered to established, licensed medical marijuana providers in good standing. Licenses will also be restricted to those businesses for the first year, after which others will be allowed to apply. Initiative 190 applies a one-year moratorium on licenses for out-of-state interests, a move R. Lambert said will protect businesses such as his. Post-moratorium, out-of-state cannabis businesses will be required to enter the market under a small grow canopy, limited the square footage of their grows, and forcing them to follow the same process as established Montana providers.

“It might be a slow kick off,” R. Lambert said, “but it will protect guys like myself.” He explained the medical marijuana industry is still changing, and he expects the process regarding recreational cannabis to also be ever-changing. He also notes that recreational storefronts will be subject to city and county regulations, meaning that Valley County will need to vote on whether to allow recreational sales within its borders. R. Lambert has been a provider since 2009 and has established a relationship with county officials and law enforcement.

He noted that he had applied for a license to operate his medical dispensary within Glasgow city limits, but was turned down by the city council. Turning to a location outside the city limits, he found education was key in establishing his location on the hill. R. Lambert explained that the dispensary follows strict security guidelines, not allowing in anyone who is not legally allowed to purchase medical marijuana. In addition, he and Deb operate much as any other business, donating to causes and supporting youth sports teams.

While rules are established for recreational sales, the Lamberts are strongly encouraging anyone with a medical card to keep it current. Medical marijuana is taxed at four percent, while recreational sales will be taxed at 20 percent. R. Lambert noted that he covers the four percent tax and does not pass that on to their customers, but the 20 percent tax, “I will not cover.” With a 20 percent tax, consumers are looking to pay more in taxes in only a few purchases than they would pay for their medical use card. He added that medical marijuana is grown for quality, while recreational growers tend to focus on quantity, further encouraging those with cards to hang on to them.

The newly passed legislation also makes it easier to expand medical conditions which can be treated with medical marijuana. Those with mental health concerns such as ADD/ADHD, anxiety and depression may be able to ask a doctor about medical-use marijuana as restrictions ease.

A sentence expungement process was also included in the new legislation. Persons with non-violent cannabis records can apply through the Department of Revenue for expungment, and those currently incarcerated for offenses which will be legal under Initiative 190 will be able to petition to have their sentences reduced.


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