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Legal recreational marijuana appears to stay in Yellowstone County; voters add taxes to sales in Gallatin

Researchers looked at states with medical marijuana dispensaries and those that allow home cultivation.
Evelyn Hockstein
/
The Washington Post/Getty Images
A question on the primary ballot in Yellowstone County asked voters whether or not they supported overturning recreational marijuana operations.

Preliminary results show recreational marijuana will stay in Yellowstone County.

A question on the primary ballot asked voters whether or not they supported overturning recreational marijuana operations, which the county had previously supported when Montanans voted to legalize it in 2020.

Unofficial election results show 58% of voters were against overturning, and 42% were in favor at the end of election night. The county election office will count absentee ballots dropped off at polling sites on Wednesday.

Zach Schopp, who owns Seed of Life Labs and heads the pro-recreational marijuana group Better for Montana, says as a business owner it's reassuring to see voters show their support a second time for recreational marijuana.

“I think that the county and the majority of the people realized that the sky hasn’t fallen, that we are a net positive to the community,” he said.

Steve Zabawa with the group Safe Montana says the vote could have gone the other way if the ballot language had been more straightforward. He says using the term "non-medical marijuana" instead of "recreational" confused voters.

“Is it recreational or is it medical? They just didn’t define it correctly," he said. "They caused the wrong vote tonight so we’ll just have to go back to it and clean it up and talk about it in the legislative session in 2023."

Zabawa helped put the marijuana issue on the ballot in Yellowstone County. He says he plans to pursue a statewide repeal of marijuana legalization.

According to estimates from the Montana Department of Revenue the combined local tax on medical and recreational marijuana combined generated more than $100,000 per month for Yellowstone County since the taxes went into effect Jan. 31.

Voters in Gallatin County, meanwhile, approved local sales taxes on recreational and medical marijuana.

As of 10 p.m. the tax on recreational sales had received 78% of votes in favor, and the medical sales tax received 58%, according to unofficial results.

The 3% tax on both types of marijuana products sold in the county is in addition to the 20% state tax on recreational and 4% on medical.

Gallatin County estimates that the combined taxes will generate around $1.3 million annually. Gallatin County commissioners have not tied the funds to specific projects, but say they would like to prioritize funding mental health services.

The local options sales taxes on recreational and medical marijuana will go into effect in October.

According to the Montana Department of Revenue’s Cannabis Control Division there are 75 dispensaries in Gallatin County.