Your Guide to Montana’s New Marijuana Law

Election Day 2020 brought a new marijuana law to the Big Sky Country state.

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More than half of Montana voters approved the recreational use of marijuana on November 3. The “Big Sky Country” state is one of 4 states that voted on Election Day to allow the use, possession, and cultivation of small amounts of cannabis for those over 21.

In general, the law allows for possession of 1 ounce or less of marijuana or 8 grams or less of marijuana concentrate by persons over the age of 21 in Montana beginning January 1, 2021.

Supporters of the initiative have estimated that the 20% tax on the marijuana and fees charged will generate about $48 million annually by 2025.

The fees will fund program administration and enforcement. Marijuana taxes will contribute to the general fund and special revenue accounts for conservation, veterans’ services, substance abuse treatment, healthcare, and local governments, according to the bill. The general fund will net $4 million.

Medical marijuana was approved by Montana voters in 2004.

Employer conduct

The initiative does not prohibit employers from disciplining an employee for violation of a workplace drug policy or for working while intoxicated by marijuana.

It also would not prohibit employers from refusing to hire, discharging, disciplining, or otherwise taking an adverse employment action against an employee for violating an employer’s drug policy or working while intoxicated by marijuana.

The initiative does not prohibit employers from disciplining an employee for violation of a workplace drug policy or for working while intoxicated by marijuana.

Home cultivation

Montana residents can grow marijuana starting January 1, 2021.

Individuals can grow as many as 4 marijuana plants and 4 seedlings for personal use in their home. However, the plants must be in an enclosed area with a lock and not accessible to public view.

According to the bill, a person growing or storing marijuana plants must own the private residence where the plants are cultivated and stored or obtain written permission to cultivate and store marijuana from the owner of the private residence.

There are penalties for cultivating marijuana plants under certain circumstances:

  • A person who cultivates marijuana plants that are visible by normal vision from a public place is subject to a civil fine not exceeding $250 and forfeiture of the marijuana.
  • A person who cultivates marijuana plants or stores marijuana outside of a locked space is subject to a civil fine not exceeding $250 and forfeiture of the marijuana.

Licensing

The Montana Department of Revenue must start accepting applications from growers, processors, and retailers by January 1, 2022.

Licensed businesses cannot advertise in any form, including social media. Businesses can have websites but may not “actively solicit consumers or out-of-state consumers through the website,” according to the measure.

Public spaces

The law does not allow for smoking or consuming marijuana products in public spaces unless local jurisdictions designate specific places to do so.

A person who smokes marijuana in a public place, other than in an area licensed for that activity, is subject to a civil fine not exceeding $50.

The law does not allow for operating a vehicle, including boats and airplanes, while under the influence of marijuana.

Expungement/resentencing for previous offenses

Persons convicted of certain types of marijuana-related crimes, generally those that are no longer a crime under the measure, may request a resentencing or to have the conviction expunged.

Local governments

Local governments can regulate marijuana providers who operate within the local government’s jurisdiction.

Lawsuit filed

The new measure has already spawned a lawsuit. A lawsuit was filed in Lewis and Clark County on November 10 with the aim of stopping the ballot initiative, according to KULR8News.

Although 15 states have now legalized the recreational use of weed and many more have approved the medical use of marijuana, it remains illegal under federal law.

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