Montana Lawmakers Stall Inevitable Cannabis Legalization

Yesterday, the Economic Affairs Interim Committee voted to halt the rulemaking procedure for implementing Montana’s new recreational cannabis timetable, with legislators claiming that some of the Department of Revenue’s (DOR) variations of House Bill 701, a measure passed this legislative session governing recreational cannabis, wander too far from its legal purpose.

As the January 1 integration deadline for the program approaches quickly, the committee suspended all decisions on the new rules bid until its next meeting. That meeting will be held next week on Monday, December 13. Until then, Senator Jason Ellsworth (R-MT), and Sen. Shane Morigeau (D-MT), will labor with DOR to elucidate and annex the regulations to more closely match legal purposes.

“I would state that trying to enact a complete rules packet that is on a vital piece of law that affects everyone in Montana is a difficult task. We have to be careful with our wording, phrasing and it’s urgent to get that precise. We only get one chance at this, and we need to make sure that we get [cannabis legalization in Montana] right,” Ellsworth stated.

During the aforementioned meeting, legislators and public members weighed in on equity among Native Americans in the cannabis implementation process, how cannabis licensing fees should be managed, warning tags on cannabis packaging, and who should benefit from abeyance on new cannabis licenses.

The Hamilton administration was specifically thought about concerning the language encompassing Native American tribes’ power to expand their cannabis cultivation operations under their automated combined-use licenses and whether cannabis dispensaries or the DOR should be employed to develop apprenticeship standards for cannabis industry employees.

Ellsworth also resisted a rule change that would permit  “cannabis” on warning labels as a substitute for ‘marijuana.’

“Children don’t understand what cannabis is, but they understand what marijuana is. So if we are going to label something with caution to make sure children heed that caution, we need to be straightforward,” he stated.

Morigeau stated with a program this large; the committee requires to assert they do everything they can possibly do to execute it effectively.

“We’re testing out a lot of rules and a litany of processes for an industry that has often been under the guise of scrutiny, so we are just trying to assure we are doing our most damn to satisfy Montanans’ concerns,” he stated.

Along with combined-use licenses, Morigeau stated he wants to review licensing fees and a potential suspension on new cannabis testing labs, two topics laboriously discussed amidst public commentary.

To align with legal purposes, both Morigeau and Ellsworth stated that the DOR’s interpretation of combined-use licenses should have unmistakable that the Native American tribes could broaden their cannabis grow operations beyond tier one, the most inferior tier. The licenses allow Montana’s tribes to grow cannabis and open a cannabis dispensary on the same reservation. In addition, the DOR may allocate eight combined-use licenses. This represents one license for each tribe.

‘Our purpose was that the combined-use licenses were the [beginning point] and a chance for those Native American tribes to up their tier evenly and fairly just like every other Montanan,” Morigeau stated.

During the public statement, industry experts debated whether there should be a suspension on applications to open cannabis laboratory testing facilities, similar for cannabis dispensaries. The 18-month stay is meant to give Montana cannabis dispensaries a head start on the out-of-state challenge, something cannabis dispensaries and other industry companies advocated for to ensure they were not flushed out of the emerging cannabis market.

However, Nathan Kosted, who is employed at a cannabis testing laboratory in Montana, stated labs can process up to 30 metric tons of cannabis monthly and can handle any supply expansions.

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