Montana Revokes Employment and CBD Restrictions for Cannabis Workers

Last week, we brought you a story regarding the cannabis news in Billings. Again, The Treasure State is finding itself in the midst of cannabis news. The Montana Department of Revenue informed legislators earlier this week that it will offer a pair of recommended rules implementing Montana’s recreational cannabis program following reviewing considerable data from members of the public, the bud industry, and lawmakers who advised that the commands deviated from the purpose of House Bill 701, a measure passed this session managing the adult-use retail cannabis market.

The initial rule would have effectively banned cannabis dispensaries from selling CBD products, an interpretation of a provision in the statute intended to create separation between the hemp and recreational cannabis sectors.

The next rule would have probably barred employment chances in cannabis dispensaries for those with any prior criminal offenses in the past three years or any cannabis statute violation in any area at any time, which cannabis legalization advocates state contradicts the philosophies tied to restorative justice and economic advancement that straddle Montana’s drive for retail cannabis.

However, legislators were swift to inform the department, tasked with creating guidelines to implement HB701 by its January 1 active date, that its understanding of the law was lacking the mark—for instance, HB701 simply states that cannabis dispensary workers with felony convictions need to inform the Department of Revenue, not that any judgment could be grounds for suspension or annulment of a cannabis worker permit.

In regards to the CBD side, the department has stated it based its design rule on a portion in HB701 that specifically excludes hemp from the meaning of cannabis, ‘including cannabis seeds and all extracts, cannabinoids,’ and so on. Despite this, legislators have stated they expected to protect hemp cultivators, not bar the sale of value-added cannabis products.

‘It has been made explicitly clear by lawmakers, and citizens of the public-at-large that the department’s construction in those two sections didn’t mesh with the lawmakers,’ DOR Director Brendan Beatty told cannabis outlets earlier this week.

The EAIC is one of many interim bodies with guidance over rule-making as outlined by the Montana Administrative Procedures Act.

‘We have composed what is now generally a draft bill to remove that language regarding the criminal convictions,’ Beatty stated, furthering that the department was doing something similar for the CBD limitation.

HB701, backed by Rep. Mike Hopkins, R-Missoula, is a 145+ page monstrosity that developed as one of the 2021 session’s cornerstone pieces of cannabis legislation, shaped by a handful of amendments and months of discussions between stakeholders and essential lawmakers in both chambers. The measure didn’t legalize cannabis itself; that was done due to the passage of ballot initiative 190 by Montana voters last year. However, the initiative served as a means for the government, to remove its oppressive authority and to have information over the cannabis regulatory climate.

Between various other procurements, the proposal advanced control over both Montana’s medicinal and recreational cannabis markets to the Department of Revenue, which has worked since last year getting similar provisions installed but were unsuccessful.

‘Attempting to put forth this bill has been a colossal task. I’ve been told that HB701 is the most revised bill in the antiquity of the Montana legislature,’ Beatty stated to the interim committee. ‘There are some obscure sections, some sections where words have been put into statute where the government may not have intended.’

Recently, Billings made it was into the cannabis new cycle. Billings taxpayers were en route to a ban of recreational cannabis dispensaries in Billings. The results were approximately 55% saying ‘no thank you’ in an unlawful repercussion outcome last week. In combination with the Yellowstone County election results, 17,000 voted nay while 13,800 voted in favor of recreational cannabis.

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