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The 68th legislative session in Montana was a rollercoaster for lawmakers pushing for cannabis policy change. From a bill that would end the recreational cannabis market statewide to a measure seeking changes in permissible THC amounts in edibles, only a few made the cut on the road to Gov. Greg Gianforte’s desk.
On Monday, the governor gave the green to several measures that could bolster the industry, reported KRTV.
- House Bill 128, from Rep. Josh Kassmier (R), proposes changes to House Bill 701, the cannabis industry framework bill passed in 2021. It seeks to extend the existing 18-month moratorium on new cannabis business licenses to June 30, 2025. Under the bill, only state-based medical marijuana businesses are approved to sell recreational cannabis, while tribes can launch their facilities. Cannabis multi-state operators and other businesses looking to venture into the burgeoning market will have to wait at least two years to jump on the opportunity.
- House Bill 903, sponsored by Rep. Mike Hopkins (R), also addresses the moratorium on new licenses or, more precisely, the date when it began. The measure amends HB 701’s moratorium start date – Nov 4, 2020, to April 27, 2021 – allowing 16 businesses that applied before the set date to start selling recreational marijuana. The measure also seeks to impose a cumulative $5,000 fee per additional location annually to renew the licenses for stores run by licensed cannabis operators.
- House Bill 229 – another bill from Rep. Hopkins that got Gov. Gianforte’s approval – allows for a 10% variation in the THC amount in edibles. Up until now, any cannabis product test that is even slightly above the permitted amount is considered as failed on a safety test.
- House Bill 948, sponsored by Rep. Steven Galloway (R), makes it illegal to produce and distribute synthetic marijuana products, including Delta-8 THC and HHC. Delta-8 THC is a chemical component typically derived from legal CBD found in hemp plants. Although delta-8 occurs naturally in very small concentrations, it can produce a mild psychoactive effect in some people similar to delta-9 THC.
What’s Happening With Marijuana Tax Distribution Bill
Meanwhile, Gov. Gianforte’s decision to veto Senate Bill 442, which sought to regulate how $50 million of recreational cannabis taxes would have been distributed statewide – is facing strong opposition.
To that end, Sen. Mike Lang (R), the bill’s sponsor, sought to override the governor’s veto. Moreover, according to The Western News, an association of the state’s counties has also voiced against the governor’s decision.
“His veto ignores 132 legislators from both parties who voted for SB 442,” the association said. “It ignores 56 county commissions and numerous local governments who support the bill because it supported needed county road maintenance, enabling farmers and ranchers to get their products to market and EMTs to respond to emergencies.”
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