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Montana regulators to introduce new proposed limits on medical marijuana growing space

Posted at 10:53 PM, Apr 12, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-13 00:53:00-04

HELENA – State regulators have outlined additional proposals to update the rules for Montana’s medical marijuana program.

The proposed changes would modify the new administrative rules for the medical marijuana system that went into effect Tuesday. Leaders with the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services said they wanted to address some concerns that had been raised about those rules in recent weeks.

The largest change would be in the allowed growing space, or “canopy,” for each medical marijuana provider. The new proposal would establish 20 tiers of providers, based on how many patients they serve. Each tier would have a different maximum canopy.

Providers with 20 patients or fewer would be allowed 20 square feet of growing canopy per patient, up to a maximum of 400 square feet. The largest providers, with more than 4,065 patients, could have up to 81,230 square feet of canopy.

The health department would reassess each provider’s allowed canopy at least four times per year, based on the number of registered cardholders they served. Providers could also ask the department for a reassessment.

In the rule proposal, health department leaders said this system would give cardholders enough access to the medicine they need and limit the risk of overproduction.

Under the administrative rules that took effect this week, each provider is allowed up to 50 square feet of growing canopy for each patient they have. Last month, some state lawmakers and industry representatives criticized that provision, saying that amount of space would produce more marijuana than any one patient would need.

Health department leaders agreed with those concerns, saying they had also determined the maximum canopy was too large after visiting providers.

The proposed rule change is still just a draft, until the health department officially publishes it. Representatives from the Montana Secretary of State’s Office expect that to happen early Friday morning.

Once the rule proposals are published, they will still have to go through a public comment period before being implemented. A public hearing in Helena will be scheduled for May 3.

These proposed changes would be just the latest adjustment to Montana’s medical marijuana regulations. Last year, the Montana Legislature passed a wide-ranging reform of the system. Lawmakers tasked the health department with creating administrative rules to implement the changes, including provisions for testing and tracking all marijuana sold in the state.