Recreational cannabis for sale in Montana
Local businesses struggle to keep up with long lines of new customers
About a decade since Colorado first legalized recreational cannabis, Montana joined the list of 17 states that have legalized the recreational use of marijuana. Medical dispensaries across the state opened their doors to adults over the age of 21 on Jan. 1.
The Marijuana Legislation Initiative (I-190) was approved over a year ago with 56.9% of the state in favor and 43.10% opposed. The initiative supported legalizing the possession and use of marijuana for adults over the age of 21, imposed a 20% sales tax, and allowed for the resentencing or cancellation of marijuana related crimes, according to the Montana Department of Revenue (MTR).
Of the 51 counties within Montana, 27 opposed legalization. These counties will remain “red” and typically lean more to the eastern side of the state. The 24 counties that approved legalization of recreational weed, typically in the western half of the state, are considered “green.” Gallatin, Madison, Jefferson, and Park County are green counties while nearby Broadwater, Meagher, and Beaverhead are red.
According to the Montana Department of Revenue, adults over the age of 21 can purchase and legally have up to one ounce of marijuana, either eight grams of concentrate, or 800 mg of edible THC. Adults can also own two mature plants and two seedlings.
The only businesses able to sell recreational marijuana and its products are designated medical providers as of Nov. 2020. All products must come from within Montana. Following an 18 month period, out of state providers and marijuana will join the market.
The Montana Secretary of State projects marijuana will generate about $48 million annually by 2025 through the sales tax. For those wondering where that money will go: “10.5% of the tax revenue goes to the state general fund, with the rest dedicated to accounts for conservation programs, substance abuse treatment, veterans’ services, healthcare costs, and localities where marijuana is sold,” according to Initiative 190.
It is still illegal to cross state lines or fly with marijuana, as well as consume marijuana in public or on federal lands. Driving a car while under the influence can result in a DUI.
According to the Montana Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (HB-701), folks can have marijuana in their vehicles under particular conditions. The weed must be “(a) purchased from a dispensary and that remains in its unopened, original packaging; (b) in a locked glove compartment or storage compartment; (c) in a motor vehicle trunk or luggage compartment or in a truck bed or cargo compartment; (d) behind the last upright seat of a motor vehicle that is not equipped with a trunk; or (e) in a closed container in the area of a motor vehicle that is not equipped with a trunk and that is not normally occupied by the driver or a passenger.”
BIG SKY DISPENSARIES
Interestingly enough, advertising for marijuana is prohibited within the same initiative that legalized recreational use earlier this year (Initiative 190). This prevents people from advertising marijuana products under any medium and they cannot actively solicit customers, nor list prices, on their website.
In Big Sky there are currently three medical dispensaries operating: Herbaceous Inc., Greener Pastures, and Lone Peak Cannabis Company (formerly Lone Peak Caregivers). These three businesses pay some of the highest taxes across the state of Montana for weed because of the state’s 20% sales tax and the additional 4% from Resort Tax. Medical marijuana, however, is excluded.
Tanya Simonson, part owner of Herbaceous Inc., opened her shop in Big Sky a year and a half ago. She runs the business with her brother and his wife out of Butte. They grow and have a store too.
“[Opening day] was very busy. Busier than expected,” laughed Simonson. "There's definitely a lot of tourists coming in but a lot of locals too... We were definitely back stocked with weed, and we went through a lot. It was a big day. We ran out of some product, some of our edibles.”
“Now that it kind of has opened up I feel like a stigma maybe has released just because people are like, ‘Oh, it’s legal.’ And now maybe [people are] not as nervous to even come into the store. Whereas before, when it was just medical, people were a little hesitant because there's such a stigma on cannabis... I had people yesterday that had never even smoked weed. Quite a few were like, ‘I don’t even know how to do this, but now that I can, I would like to,’” explained Simonson.
Shops like Herbaceous have changed prices to reflect the increase in demand and some have started to buy wholesale. In the past, cannabis providers had to grow, manufacture, and sell their entire product in-house. Now, shops can purchase products from other manufacturers within Montana.
One drawback for medical dispensaries is the fear of running out of marijuana with the influx of new customers. Additionally, Montana issued a moratorium on all operations besides medical dispensaries to sell weed until 2023. “We have 18 months until they open the doors and then it will be a flood gate of out of state,” said Simonson.
TIPS FOR VISITING
For folks interested in checking out a cannabis dispensary, bring your identification, cash, and hold onto your “exit bag.” Marijuana flowers, edibles, tinctures, vaporizer cartridges, oil concentrates, and topical lotions are available for purchase. “Honestly, if you get a knowledgeable budtender that helps you with whatever you need... Everybody tips their bartender,” said Simonson.