HELENA — A special legislative committee is putting its stamp on the one remaining major bill to overhaul Montana’s marijuana laws.
The Montana Senate’s Select Committee on Marijuana Law met Wednesday to amend and possibly approve House Bill 701, sponsored by Rep. Mike Hopkins, R-Missoula.
The select committee was tasked with considering three large bills and several smaller ones that sought to amend the recreational marijuana system set up by voter-approved Initiative 190. Over the last week, they tabled two of the major bills – House Bills 670 and 707 – leaving HB 701 as the remaining vehicle for reforms.
The Montana Senate’s Select Committee is meeting now to take action on the one large marijuana bill still active — House Bill 701. They’re set to make some significant amendments, then potentially pass it. #MTNews #MTPol #MTLeg pic.twitter.com/77igcmWHub— Jonathon Ambarian (@JSAmbarian) April 21, 2021
The committee is planning significant amendments to HB 701. Most of their work was rolled into what members called “the big amendment,” which proposes dozens of changes throughout the bill.
One of the major changes in the amendment would deal with counties’ ability to block marijuana businesses. It would state that, in counties where a majority of voters rejected I-190, recreational marijuana businesses couldn’t operate unless the county held a local election where voters agreed to “opt in.” In counties where most voters approved I-190, recreational businesses would automatically be allowed unless the county or city voted to “opt out” and prohibit those businesses.
The amendment would allow current medical marijuana license holders to keep operating even if their county didn’t opt in to recreational sales.
Half of Montana’s 56 counties voted for I-190, and the other half voted against it. However, it’s estimated the counties that supported the measure include more than 80% of the state’s population.
The amendment would also give counties back the chance to put a local-option marijuana tax before voters, up to a limit of 3%. It would limit home growing of marijuana to two mature plants per person, instead of four. #MTNews #MTPol #MTLeg— Jonathon Ambarian (@JSAmbarian) April 21, 2021
The “big amendment” would also make a number of other changes:
· Giving counties back the ability to put a local-option marijuana tax of up to 3% before voters for approval
· Allowing existing medical marijuana providers in counties that allow recreational sales to immediately begin selling to recreational customers on Jan. 1, 2022; they would have to get an adult-use license at their next license renewal
· Limiting home growing of recreational marijuana to two mature plants and two seedlings per person, and four per household; medical marijuana patients would be allowed four mature plants and four seedlings
· Designating a specific court for handling expungement petitions for people convicted of marijuana offenses that would now be legal
· Prohibiting lease agreements from preventing tenants from possessing marijuana or using it by means other than smoking
· Allowing Montana tribes, which are each entitled to one recreational marijuana license, to have their growing sites and dispensaries up to 150 miles from their reservation, as a way to ensure tribes can use those licenses even if nearby counties don’t allow recreational sales
In addition, it lays out a significant revision in how the money from marijuana tax revenues would be used. The amendment would keep HB 701’s provision putting up to $6 million into Gov. Greg Gianforte’s “HEART Fund” for mental health and substance abuse treatment. However, it would also redirect 20% of the remaining revenue to the Habitat Montana conservation program and up to $200,000 to services for veterans and their surviving spouses – bringing the revenue distribution closer to what I-190 called for.
The committee began discussing amendments Wednesday morning, but they delayed any action on the “big amendment” until Wednesday afternoon. Leaders are hoping to quickly advance HB 701 so it can be heard by the full Senate this week.