Montana Recreational Cannabis Legalization Bill Passes Senate

1.7 min readPublished On: April 24th, 2021By

HELENA, Mont. — The Montana State Senate passed a bill to implement a recreational cannabis program in the state.  The bill passed the Senate with a 34-16 vote, this past Friday, 23rd of April. It next heads back to the Montana House, which will vote on the Senate amendments.

Quick overview:

  • Montanans approved a ballot measure last year to legalize recreational cannabis sales. The ballot measure also sought to divert a significant portion of cannabis tax revenues toward nature-conservation efforts.

  • Recreational cannabis sales would be taxed at a rate of 20%.

  • Tax revenue from cannabis sales is estimated to be more than $48 million annually by 2025.

  • The bill’s planned tax revenue distribution is as follows:

    • $6 million of revenue annually will be put towards a drug addiction treatment program

    • 20%  toward conservation efforts;

    • $650,000 each  to state parks, trails and recreational facilities, and wildlife protection;

    • $200,000 to veterans services and improving veterans’ cemeteries;

    • $300,000 to a one-time purchase of drug detection canines;

    • $150,000 to a one-time police training;

    • Remaining money would enter the state’s general fund.

(Image: Capitol Building, Helena, Montana, Ron Woodsine)

The measure saw off several attempts by several Republican lawmakers, who said they object to legalization, to stop the bill. Some lawmakers suggested the possibility of challenging the ballot measure in court. Because of this Republican effort to stymie the bill, the measure includes a clause that would nullify the law if the ballot measure is found to be illegal.

The measure was further delayed by the Republican governor Greg Gianforte’s push to divert the new taxes to fund programs that were not voted on by Montanans in their voter-approved initiative, such as using cannabis tax revenues to replace funding for general addiction treatment.

 

(Image: Greg Gianforte)

As in many other states, the plan has social equity components. One of which includes a provision under which those serving sentences for illegal cannabis possession in the state could apply for non-violent cannabis-law violations to be expunged.

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