HELENA — As Montana lawmakers shape the regulations that will guide the marijuana industry, Montana's dispensary owners and growers weigh their futures.
The industry has previously seen boom and bust in the Treasure State.
Matt Clinch is the owner of Sleeping Giant Gardens just outside of Helena. He says there was a time when he wondered if marijuana would ever be legal in his lifetime.
"Little did I know, I would be graduating from college and opening a dispensary," Clinch said.
Clinch has been in the medical marijuana business for a decade, and the retail shop is just one part of this business. He’s also a grower.
"There is almost a stigmatization against us, that we are just potheads and it's more than that as far as the business end, the growing end," said Clinch.
Clinch grows medical marijuana that can then be sold to qualifying patients. However, Montana’s natural climate doesn’t make for great growing conditions. The plants need to be kept in just a suitable climate, held in a certain amount of lightning.
The difficult task of farming is only one portion; with the legalization of Marijuana only being in the state, it also puts limitations on business owners' balance sheets.
"There are lots of barriers, you know, it's mainly a cash business, but then people don't want to take your cash don't want to deal with you," he said.
The cash nature creates obstacles; federally regulated financial institutions will not do business with people in the cannabis industry, taxes are paid in cash, and workers' compensation insurance would challenge business owners.
"The only people that can work with me are state funds, and from what I heard from my account and other people is that I could get lower rates at other organizations, but if you weren't involved in the cannabis industry," said Clinch.
Yet the industry continues to grow, and with more states legalizing recreational marijuana Clinch is hopeful for change. "We can all remember when the Cannabis Industry was frowned upon, for so many years,” said Clinch.
Currently, Montana lawmakers are developing the framework for recreational Marijuana, and on the federal level the Safe Banking Act, sponsored by Republican Senator Steve Daines, would give legal cannabis access to banks and credit unions.
"It is cool, that,” added Clinch. “All that stuff is coming to the forefront, and they are accepting it practically like banking.”