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Montana 2021 Legislature

Recreational Marijuana Taxes To Fund Addiction Treatment, Conservation Under Senate Bill

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By United States Fish and Wildlife Service [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
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A larger slice of tax revenue from Montana's forthcoming recreational marijuana industry will fund outdoors conservation, under a regulatory proposal endorsed by a bipartisan group of Senate lawmakers Friday. The Senate veered from standard procedure to advance the bill to the House to get it over the finish line in the legislative session’s final days.

The 162-page bill lays out how the state will regulate adult-use cannabis, including how shops get licensed, what products they can sell and where the sales tax revenue will go.

“This is a great start to having a controlled and responsible industry from the get go here in Montana. And the key word--I want to really stress this--the key word is responsibility,” said Republican Sen. Jason Small of Busby.

The bill says counties where voters did not approve the ballot initiative allowing recreational marijuana can opt into the new program. All counties may enact a local-option sales tax to pay for the cost of regulating dispensaries within their boundaries.

The policy allows Montana tribes to run dispensaries up to 150 miles from their reservation to ensure tribes can use their licenses if surrounding counties don’t allow recreational sales.

Under the bill, $6 million of the estimated revenue from a 20% statewide sales tax goes to Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte’s proposed addiction treatment program, the HEART Fund, each year. Additionally, smaller amounts of money fund veterans’ services and programs tied to parks, trail maintenance and non-game wildlife habitat. Starting in 2023, $5.4 million is funneled toward the Habitat Montana conservation program annually.

House Bill 701’s proposed spending on conservation programs was boosted after Democrats advocated for creating a program that aligned more closely with the initiative passed by voters.

“We’ve all got our ideas on how this should be. I think, as they say, if it’s a bill nobody likes then it must be a really good bill,” said Great Falls Democratic Sen. Tom Jacobson.

House lawmakers will now consider recent amendments to the bill.

Kevin Trevellyan is Yellowstone Public Radio’s Report for America statehouse reporter.