Montana’s Adult Use Initiatives for 2020 Ballot

Montana joins several states in certifying cannabis legalization for the ballot this November.

If Montana’s initiative passes, the state would begin accepting new marijuana business applications no later than January 1, 2022. For the first year of the program, beginning October 1, 2021, the state department could only issue adult-use licenses to medical marijuana operators in good standing. 

Montana’s Cannabis History

Montana legalized medical marijuana relatively early, in 2004, though not until 2016 were providers allowed to service more than three patients and provide cannabis for PTSD. As of July 2020, there were around 33,000 registered patients in the state and roughly 235 dispensaries for a state population of just over a million residents. 

Initiative 190

In January 2020, activists with New Approach Montana submitted a ballot initiative to legalize cannabis for adult use named Montana Initiative 190 (I-190). The initiative would bring into effect the Montana Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (the “Act”), full text here. The signature gathering process for this initiative was unique in that the Montana Supreme Court allowed mail-in voter signatures without a notary seal due to Covid-19 pandemic restrictions against human contact. In August, the initiative formally qualified for the November 2020 ballot. In an early 2020 poll, Montana I-190 had the support of 54% of the population while 37% were opposed. 

The proposed Montana Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (I-190) would legalize the purchase and possession of up to one ounce of marijuana for adults at least 21 years of age. It would also direct the formation and regulation of an adult-use marijuana market and licensing for providers (cultivators and infused product manufacturers) and dispensaries. There are no limits in the initiatives but nothing precludes the state from adding limits in the future. The Montana Department of Revenue is the regulatory authority tasked with establishing rules and issuing licenses through the program. New license applicants may only apply to cultivate up to 2,500 square feet at up to two registered premises, and license growers will have the option to add square footage annually by moving up to the next tier of the licensing system. 

Initiative CI 118

Another ballot measure will accompany cannabis legalization, called Montana CI-118. This constitutional initiative would allow the legal minimum age for purchasing, consuming, or possessing marijuana to be set by I-190 at 21 years old by adding “and marijuana” to the end of current Section 14 of the Montana Constitution. 


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