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More Montana counties look to add local sales tax on marijuana products

Researchers looked at states with medical marijuana dispensaries and those that allow home cultivation.
Twelve Montana counties will decide in the upcoming election if they want to add a local sales tax to marijuana products.

A dozen Montana counties will decide in the upcoming election if they want to add a local sales tax to marijuana products.

Gallatin County commissioners want to use the funds for mental health services, but some pot shop owners say the tax would hurt their businesses.

Voters in Gallatin County are being asked whether medical and recreational marijuana should each be taxed at 3%. The proposed local options sales tax is in addition to the 20% state tax on recreational and 4% on medical.

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Gallatin County Commissioner Zach Brown estimates if both medical and recreational taxes pass the county could generate just over $1 million annually. Funds would be shared between the county and the cities within it.

The county would get half the funds; 45% would go to cities based on population, and 5% to the state for administrative costs.

Brown says the current commission would like to prioritize funding mental health services.

“By more heavily investing in our behavioral health system we can help improve outcomes for citizens and ultimately help people get the care they need instead of just paying for them sitting in a jail cell or something like that,” he said.

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Adam Arnold co-owns Collective Elevation. The company operates four dispensaries, including one in Bozeman and one in Silver Bow County, which is also considering adding a local tax.

Arnold opposes the tax. He says adding it during a time when consumers are increasingly price sensitive will impact his bottom line.

“I think that at some point you have to say enough is enough and just because it's cannabis doesn’t make it right to overly tax it," he said. "It definitely has negative implications for the community in that less jobs are created if less people are buying local cannabis."

In Montana, four other counties have already passed local options sales taxes on marijuana. Yellowstone County approved theirs in November. Voters there in June are considering banning recreational operations sales in the county altogether.

Olivia Weitz covers Bozeman and surrounding communities in Southwest Montana for Yellowstone Public Radio. She has reported for Northwest News Network and Boise State Public Radio and previously worked at a daily print newspaper. She is a graduate of the University of Puget Sound and the Transom Story Workshop.