Montana’s recreational cannabis market isn’t being embraced by all counties

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Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

On Saturday, January 1, 2022, legal recreational cannabis sales started in Montana. 

Now joining 17 other U.S. states, the “Big Sky Country” is presenting existing cannabis dispensary owners in rural counties with the option to capitalize on an emerging sector. 

On the other hand, for the business owners who are operating in rural areas, opportunities won’t come knocking quite so quickly.

Recreational sales can begin in “green counties” where the bulk of residents voted in favor of cannabis reform, such as Ravalli, Mineral and Missoula.

However, the residents of so-called “red counties” — where voters decided not to legalize the plant — will not be privileged with recreational cannabis sales. They will, however, be able to opt-in with another vote.

Sales projections issued by the state indicate that businesses could be missing out on up to $1.2 million in annual revenue if they are unable to participate in the adult-use market.

About Montana’s recreational cannabis law

During last year’s legislative session, lawmakers engaged in debate about recreational cannabis, before adding a provision to House Bill 701 that meant adult-use sales were contingent on county voter support for the Montana Marijuana Legalization and Tax Initiative (I-190).

Following the clause’s insertion into HB 701, counties were informed that recreational sales would instantly be permitted in counties that received solid legalization support from voters. Meanwhile, counties in which the measure was dismissed by voters were told that they’d need to partake in another public voting process if they wanted to “opt-in” to recreational cannabis.

Among the handful of “red counties” outlined in Montana’s adult-use cannabis law is Beaverhead County. Home to ? people, Beaverhead county is not allowed to start selling the plant to recreational consumers; despite the fact that weed is officially legal. 

Conversely, cannabis providers in “green counties” that were already serving customers prior to I-190’s adoption have been able to serve the recreational cannabis consumer demographic since January 1.

Based on Montana’s cannabis law, adults aged 21 and older can legally purchase a maximum of one ounce of cannabis. All purchases are imposed with a 20 percent state sales tax. In certain localities, an additional tax may be added to the total price.

Licensed cannabis businesses in Montana can serve customers between the hours of 9 a.m. to 8 p.m on a daily basis. What’s more, Montanans can grow two mature plants and two seedlings in their private residence.

Missoula dispensary embraces recreational cannabis legalization in Montana

The fact that Missoula is included in the “green zone” is good news for the region’s cannabis consumers. One dispensary, Spark1, has endured a tedious four-year wait to serve patients at its brick-and-mortar store on Broadway and Adams. 

In November of last year after years of hoping and praying for state lawmakers to introduce and enact a recreational cannabis legalization bill advocates finally celebrated the passing of I 190. 

“This is a good thing for the community and for the state,” said the cannabis dispensary’s owner, Marc Lax. “Anybody over 21 can come in, regardless of what state you live in. If you’re 21 and have a valid ID, you can make a purchase up to an ounce a day.”

Prior to the launch date of recreational cannabis sales in Montana, only registered medical cannabis card holders were able to obtain Spark1’s cannabis products, all of which are produced within the state’s borders. 

However, now that an adult-use cannabis market has been set in motion, Spark1 among many other companies based in “green counties” across Montana can start targeting new consumers from further afield.