Montana first legalized medical marijuana almost two decades ago, but it wasn’t easy to get an MMJ card for a long time. However, the advent of telemedicine made things much simpler, and then the state legalized recreational weed.
Now, adults aged 21+ can buy and possess a specific amount of cannabis. Recreational sales began in January 2022, and it’s interesting to see whether residents will embrace the new normal.
This article looks into how adult-use weed has fared in Montana thus far while also looking at the current state laws. First, though, let’s learn a little more about MMJ and recreational marijuana in MT.
When Did Marijuana Become Legal in Montana?
It has been possible to get a medical marijuana card in Montana for a long time. The state legalized MMJ in 2004. However, the program initially faced fierce opposition with several attempts to prohibit the substance. For example, seven years after legalization, HB 161 came dangerously close to repealing medical marijuana in Montana. Indeed, the program was only saved because the governor vetoed the bill.
Further efforts to ban or restrict MMJ in Montana failed miserably, and in 2020, the state went the other way by fully legalizing the substance.
If you choose to get a medical marijuana card, you can buy up to an ounce of marijuana flower in a single transaction. Moreover, the monthly limit is a generous five ounces. If you prefer edibles, an ounce is the equivalent of 800mg of THC.
Marijuana Laws in MT
As an adult aged 21+, you can buy and possess up to an ounce of marijuana without an MMJ card. However, if caught with more than this amount, you will pay a fine of $200, which rises to $300 on a second offense.
Things become problematic very quickly if you’re found with more than two ounces in your possession. This is a felony offense in Montana, and you could spend up to five years in prison. Furthermore, the illegal sale of more than two ounces is an even more serious felony, with a 20-year jail term as the maximum punishment. You could spend life in prison for selling any amount of weed within 1,000 feet of school grounds.
Adults can cultivate up to two mature plants and two seedlings. If found growing more than this amount, you could spend up to five years in prison on a felony charge.
Early Stages: How Has Montana Reacted to Recreational Marijuana Legalization?
There is concern over how adult-use weed will impact states. Preliminary research on Oregon, which began recreational sales in October 2015, revealed increases in crimes such as larceny and burglary. Interestingly, one study showed that violent crime rates reduced in OR, although the benefits dwindled over time.
Certainly, the many anti-marijuana groups in Montana will be keen to find evidence of similar issues happening in their state.
In January 2023, the Montana Department of Revenue released estimated recreational marijuana sales figures. According to its data, total marijuana transactions in the state exceeded $303 million in 2022. Recreational weed accounted for $203 million of that figure, equating to two-thirds of total sales.
It seems as if adult-use sales will take an even bigger slice of the pie as time goes on. Recreational weed accounted for 58% of sales in January 2022. By December, that percentage had risen to 77%. Naturally, the state benefitted significantly, taking in over $35 million in taxes during 2022.
However, the rise of adult-use weed spells bad news for MMJ-only dispensaries. Their sales have taken a hit, and with such high overheads and taxes, life is tough for small businesses.
Final Thoughts on Montana’s Foray into Recreational Marijuana
MT legalized medical marijuana in 2004, and it’s incredibly easy to get an MMJ card online. However, the advent of recreational sales in January 2022 has caused major challenges for smaller dispensaries that specialize in medical weed.
If you have a medical condition and want to try marijuana, an MMJ card entitles you to higher buying and possession limits and lower taxes than recreational users. Also, you will get to support some great local businesses struggling to stay afloat in the new adult-use age.