On November 3, Montana voters approved a ballot initiative amending Big Sky Country’s constitution to allow the adult-use of cannabis.  Over 56% of constituents voted “yes” signaling the majority’s readiness to embrace regulated cannabis, an industry ballot measure proponents claim will generate close to $48 million a year in taxes and fees. This revenue will be distributed between special accounts for healthcare, substance abuse treatment, conservation, veterans’ services, local governments, and a general fund.  Montana has had a legal medical marijuana program since 2004. The state’s new recreational weed laws will go into effect no later than October 1, 2021. Here’s everything you need to know about Montana’s existing medical marijuana program and what you can expect from the Montana Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act

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Possession limits

Adults aged 21 and over may legally possess up to 1 ounce of cannabis flower and up to 8 grams of cannabis concentrates and edibles.  Consumers may legally purchase cannabis from a regulated cannabis retail store or dispensary, but the state has not yet awarded licenses for those establishments. The Department of Revenue has until October 1, 2021 to establish adult-use cannabis regulations, so recreational cannabis customers likely will not be able to purchase from a licensed store until late 2021 or early 2022. Additionally, local jurisdictions have the right to impose their own regulations on cannabis establishments which could further delay the opening of cannabis retail stores.  Medical patients may continue to obtain their cannabis from licensed dispensaries

Consumption rules

It is illegal to smoke cannabis in a public space; however, local governments may authorize the operation of cannabis cafes or social lounges. It will take a while before rules are established for these kinds of institutions, so for now, adults can play it safe by consuming cannabis at home or in a private residence.  It is illegal to operate a vehicle while smoking or under the influence of cannabis.  Although cannabis is legal for medical and adult-use, employers in Montana retain the right to enforce workplace drug policies, including those that prohibit the use of cannabis. An employer may require employees and job candidates to take drug tests and impose penalties including job termination (or withholding the job opportunity from a candidate) if the test returns positive for THC. 

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Home cultivation rules

Montana residence are authorized to grow up to four mature plants and up to four seedlings in their homes. Home growers must comply with the following guidelines to legally cultivate their own weed:

  • If renting, home growers must secure permission from the property owner or landlord before cultivating their cannabis plants. 
  • An adult cannot grow cannabis plants on a residence that is being rented or leased by other adults. For example, a property owner cannot grow their own weed on the property that they are renting out. 
  • Home growers must store cannabis harvested from their garden in excess of one ounce in a secured space obstructed from public view. 

Resentencing and expungement of cannabis crimes

Montana’s adult-use cannabis ballot initiative includes a provision that would allow individuals serving time for cannabis crimes considered legal under the new law the possibility to be resentenced. Resentencing may include time served counted toward a shorter sentence or less time served. It is possible for certain marijuana-related convictions to be expunged under the new law. 

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Qualifying medical conditions

Patients who have one of the following diagnoses may be eligible to participate in the Montana Medical Marijuana Program:  

  • Cancer
  • Glaucoma
  • Positive status for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)
  • Cachexia or wasting syndrome
  • Severe chronic pain 
  • Intractable nausea or vomiting 
  • Epilepsy or intractable seizure disorder
  • Multiple sclerosis 
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Painful peripheral neuropathy
  • A central nervous system disorder resulting in chronic, painful spasticity or muscle spasms 
  • Admittance into hospice care
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD

Patients must receive the diagnosis from a medical doctor or doctor of osteopathy in order to apply to the Montana Medical Marijuana Program. 

How to get a medical marijuana card in Montana

If you are interested in medical marijuana, you’ll need to schedule an appointment with your doctor before completing an application. During your appointment, your doctor must complete the Physician Statement for a Debilitating Medical Condition to certify that you have one of the medical conditions that qualify enrollment in the program. In addition to indicating your medical diagnoses, your doctor will also use the form to list limits to your use of medical marijuana. Minors can also enroll in Montana’s medical marijuana program, but they must receive a signature from two doctors on the Physician Statement for Minors.  Once you’ve obtained a signed Physician Statement, you can begin the application process online through the Complia Industry Portal. To complete the application, you will need the following materials in addition to the signed Physician Statement: 

  • A photo no more than six-months old taken of your shoulders up with a neutral background. You must have a neutral facial expression and cannot be wearing a hat or sunglasses. 
  • A copy of your Montana government issued ID. Acceptable IDs include a driver’s license, Tribal ID, or State ID. 
  • Your name and address. Your medical marijuana card will be sent to the address you provide, so make sure that you submit the correct information. 

The Montana Medical Marijuana Program will send you an email confirming their receipt of your application. If your application is rejected, you can resubmit it according to the Application Rejection Process.  The fee for the initial medical marijuana program registration is $30. A replacement card costs $10. Your medical marijuana card must be renewed annually. Each renewal requires a new physician statement and can be submitted up to 30 days before your card’s expiration date.