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Gianforte signs bill regulating recreational pot in Montana; sales start in 2022

(Hazel Cramer/Community News Service for photo.)

HELENA (KPAX) — Governor Greg Gianforte has signed off on the Montana Legislature’s final plan for implementing recreational marijuana in the state.

Gianforte signed House Bill 701 into law on Tuesday, May 18. The bill was the Legislature’s long-debated final proposal to amend Initiative 190, the marijuana legalization measure voters approved in November.

House Bill 701, sponsored by Rep. Mike Hopkins, R-Missoula, allows existing medical marijuana providers to get licensed to sell to recreational customers, with the first legal sales starting Jan. 1, 2022. For the first 18 months, only current providers will be allowed to enter the market.

In counties where the majority of voters supported I-190, recreational marijuana businesses can operate unless a county or city votes to “opt out” of allowing them. In counties where most voters rejected I-190, recreational sales will not be allowed unless a local election is held to “opt in.”

HB 701 maintains a 20% tax on recreational marijuana sales. It will direct up to $6 million a year in tax revenues to the “HEART Fund,” an account Gianforte asked for that will fund mental health and substance abuse treatment. It will also allow counties to ask voters for a local-option tax of up to 3% on marijuana sales.

“Since January, we’ve been focused on implementing the will of Montana voters in a safe, responsible, and appropriately regulated manner. House Bill 701 accomplishes this,” Gov. Gianforte said. “From the start, I’ve been clear that we need to bring more resources to bear to combat the drug epidemic that’s devastating our communities. Funding a full continuum of substance abuse prevention and treatment programs for communities, the HEART Fund will offer new supports to Montanans who want to get clean, sober, and healthy.”

HB 701 also limits home growing of recreational marijuana to two mature plants and two seedlings per person, and four per household; designates a specific court for handling expungement petitions for people convicted of marijuana offenses that would now be legal; and provides one recreational marijuana license for each of Montana’s tribes.