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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Medical Marijuana Tax, Tracking Bill Awaits Governor's Signature

Katherine Hitt (CC-BY-ND-2.0)

A tax on medical marijuana is now on it’s way to the governor's desk after passing out of the House Tuesday morning.

A signature from Governor Steve Bullock is now all that stands in the way of a tax on medical marijuana providers becoming law.

The proposed tax on gross sales would start out at 4 percent in July and drop down to 2 percent a year later, funding state regulation over the industry.

Mary Caferro, a Helena Democrat, is the sponsor of Senate Bill 333:

Rep. Mary Caferro, D-Helena. File photo.
Credit Montana Legislature
Mary Caferro (D) SD41.

"The 4 percent tax was an amendment in the Senate and I supported it, and the reason is because the 4 percent tax is enough to set up the system. And that’s common practice, industry pays for their regulation."

State lawmakers have debated how to regulate medical marijuana since it’s expansion was approved by voters in November.

Caferro says the new state regulations on the drug will include seed-to-sale tracking of all medical marijuana, meaning the state will be able to see who grows what plant and which patients buy it. The regulations also call for lab testing for the drug, and inspections of providers' shops.

Caferro and other supporters of the bill say Montana needs more regulations if this industry is going to survive and provide safe medicine.

In 2004, the state first approved medical marijuana, but without significant regulations, leading to lawmakers effectively dismantling the state’s medical marijuana program in 2011, which was upheld by the state supreme court last year.

Caferro says says Senate Bill 333 will provide legitimacy.

"The point of the bill, again, is to make sure that Montana has a regulated system so the feds don’t come shut it down," Caferro says.

Marijuana remains illegal federally. Legalization was tolerated by the Obama administration, but new U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is widely regarded as hostile to marijuana. 

Opponents of the medical marijuana regulations passed in Senate Bill 333 say it goes beyond what voters asked for when they voted to expand medical use on last year’s ballot.

The House passed the bill 68-31.

Corin Cates-Carney manages MTPR’s daily and long-term news projects. After spending more than five years living and reporting across Western and Central Montana, he became news director in early 2020.
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