How recreational marijuana will impact Montana's agriculture industry

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The legalization of recreational marijuana in Montana brings a new industry to the state. While it does bring a change to the state's economy agriculture, experts say it won't impact the agriculture industry.

Northern Ag Director Colter Brown says we probably won’t be seeing acres of planted marijuana across the state, but farmers have started taking notice.

“It’s certainly grabbed a lot of attention, and farmers are looking for anything to generate a profit. They always are, but I don’t think it’ll be marijuana," says Brown.

The new found interest in marijuana farming is similar to when hemp growing was  introduced to the Treasure State. Brown says when hemp farming became federally legal there was a lot of excitement in the agricultural industry, but so far it hasn’t turned out to be the success farmers hoped for.

According to Brown, the biggest challenge hemp producers faced was getting the product actually sold. It took time to learn about the new crop, but when it came time to get a buyer to follow through or even finding a buyer for the product, hemp producers struggled. 

Brown says there was an increase in hemp growing in 2018 and 2019, but this year that has dramatically decreased. And while many may think that marijuana and hemp are the same crop, they do have their differences.

“The differentiating factor is the THC levels. So for it to be grown legally in Montana or anywhere in the U.S. under the federal hemp program, it has to be under .3% THC. So anything over that is not legal to be grown and that’ll probably stay that way regardless of the state laws on marijuana," says Brown.

Looking at how the marijuana industry has grown in states like Washington, Oregon, and Colorado, Brown says we can expect a demand for recreational marijuana in Montana, but it won't have an impact on the state's agricultural industry.

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