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2020 Elections and Cannabis: A Look at Montana's Initiatives

By Charles Alovisetti, Tucker Wentz

Oct 30, 2020

The final post in our series of articles exploring the impact of the 2020 elections on the cannabis industry. This November 3, in addition to presidential and congressional elections that will have a major impact, five states have ballot measures that will legalize marijuana in some form. Montana is one of those states.

Montana’s commercial medical use of marijuana system has seen widespread changes over the past few years. Perhaps the biggest change so far is the June 2020 “untethering” of patients from their designated providers, which allows them to shop at any of the state’s approximately 250 dispensaries. The program does not have significant limitations on the types of products that can be sold.

Montana is voting on two related adult-use ballot initiatives in the general election, one constitutional and one statutory. New Approach Montana is leading the campaign in support of both. The constitutional initiative, CI-118, allows the state to set the legal age for purchase, consumption, and possession of cannabis through the legislature or ballot initiative. This aligns cannabis with the language used for alcohol and ensures the age limit of 21 proposed in the other initiative is covered.

The statutory initiative, I-190, will do all of the work for creating a framework for legalization in Montana. It proposes the creation of a full commercial market regulated by the Department of Revenue with licenses available for cultivation, infusion, and dispensing activities, as well as an endorsement of manufacturing activities. There is no limit on the number of available licenses. All cannabis sold will be subject to a 20% tax, in addition to sales tax, that will primarily be funneled to the Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks. The remainder would be used to cover regulatory costs, to support veterans, and fund a wage increase for healthcare workers who provide services to the disabled and elderly. It also gives local governments the ability to ban retail sales through a referendum, though it prohibits them from banning production facilities outright. It also allows for individuals charged with crimes that are now legal to petition for resentencing and expungement on a case-by-case basis.

If only CI-118 passes, the state will not have a commercial adult-use market because it only allows the state to set a legal age for cannabis use. If only I-190 passes, the state will have a regulatory framework but may decide to pause the program until they are able to raise the legal age of use from 18, which would require a constitutional amendment. If you’re a Montana voter in favor of legalizing cannabis, vote yes on both!

Join us on November 19 for a post-election discussion with members of the Vicente Sederberg LLP and VS Strategies team. Learn more and register here for this timely event!



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