BOZEMAN — Once the clock struck midnight and 2021 began, marijuana became legal for recreational use in the state of Montana - but this new law does not come without some caveats.
“I imagine people… we’ll probably have some amount of people coming to all the stores ready to buy. But you know, we can’t do that,” said Joshua Gosney, the owner of Infinity Wellness.
While marijuana is now legal for recreational use, only two things have immediately taken effect. “Any individual will be allowed to grow a certain number of plants in their house and have a certain amount of product on them at all times,” Gosney said.
So you can grow it and possess it -- but a lot goes into growing the cannabis plant.
“In Montana, you’re going to be primarily in an indoor situation, especially in the wintertime, so you’re going to need things like supplemental high-intensity lighting or LEDs, some type of watering apparatus. It’s some work,” explained Ryan Saghatelian, one of the owners of Greener Pastures.
It could be a while, though, before you can legally buy marijuana in Montana.
“Probably not going to be until 2022 when the licensing goes into play, so we’re kind of in a weird area right now where it’s legal to possess, but it’s not legal to purchase, so there’s a lot of uncertainty,” Saghatelian said.
And with new laws comes new responsibilities: “There will be limitations to what people can do. It’ll be up to the Legislature to make sure that they effectively regulate that in order to maximize tax revenue and public safety and public benefit without risking the public’s health,” Gosney said.
Smoking marijuana in public is not allowed, and Montana statue says no one can drive under the influence of any substance, according to Lt. Brandon Wooley with the Billings Police Department. He also noted: "“We still will be involved in, let's say, if you got four or five pounds on you and you've got evidence of trafficking and distribution. We're still going to seize everything and we're still going to forward through for the County Attorney's office for prosecution."
Supporters say legalizing recreational marijuana will generate much-needed tax revenue. A study by the University of Montana's Bureau of Business & Economic Research estimated recreational marijuana could generate more than $43 million a year for the state.
However, some law enforcement, medical, and professional groups oppose the measures. They argue legalized marijuana will add to the state's growing drug addiction problems, create safety concerns in the workplace, the risk of unintentional exposure to children, and increased marijuana use in adolescents.
The legalization was approved by Montana voters, who voted in favor of two measures in the November 2020 election.
- Constitutional Initiative 118 (CI-118) amended the state constitution to allow the Legislature or voters to set the age at which adults are allowed to possess and consume marijuana. The state constitution currently gives anyone 18 or older all the rights of an adult except for possession of alcohol.
- Initiative 190 (I-190) legalized the sale and possession of limited amounts of marijuana and levies a 20 percent tax on the sale of non-medical marijuana in Montana. It also allows people serving a sentence for an act now legal to apply for resentencing or an expungement of a conviction and prohibits the advertising of marijuana and related products.