Medical marijuana users brace for shortages as Montana’s recreational market opens

old couple

More than a year after voters approved legalizing marijuana for recreational use in Montana, anyone older than 21 can now walk into a dispensary and buy cannabis. That has medical marijuana user Joylynn Mane Wright worried.

Wright lives in Prairie County, the state’s fifth-least-populated county, with nearly 1,100 people. She already drives about 35 minutes to get to the marijuana dispensary nearest her home, which is 2½ hours northeast of Billings. And now she wonders how much more difficult it will be to get the cannabis she uses to relieve the chronic pain she developed after a 2017 spinal surgery.

“I’m really worried about supplies and what it’s going to cost,” she said.


Adult Use Marijuana Is Now Legal in Montana. So Why Can't Everyone Enjoy It?


Montanans voted to legalize in 2020, then things got complicated.

As a sign of the changing times, voters in conservative Montana approved recreational marijuana in November 2020. Now the state's dispensaries are preparing for recreational cannabis sales expected to create a $325 million adult-use cannabis market in just three years.

Sales started on January 1, 2022. But they won't happen in every county—at least not initially. Montana lawmakers have decided that counties where voters did not support legalization, must hold a separate referendum to make sales legal in their county.


Montana marijuana FAQ


Adult-use recreational marijuana sales begin on New Year’s Day 2022. From possession limits to travel tips, here’s what you need to know to keep on the right side of the new law.

On Jan. 1, 2022, adult-use recreational marijuana will become available for purchase in Montana. The launch of the new market raises a wide range of questions, from how much marijuana an individual can possess, to whether they can consume it in a national park, to the types of products that will be available for purchase.

Read on for answers to those questions, and many more, in this MTFP guide to the state’s post-prohibition marijuana marketplace. 


Recreational marijuana back on ballot in Yellowstone County

marijuana leafs

Initiative will appear on June 7 primary

Six weeks after Billings residents voted to ban recreational marijuana sales within city limits, Yellowstone County Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to give county voters the same chance.

Chariman Don Jones, Denis Pitman, and John Ostlund, who voted against a similar resolution in August, all agreed to put the issue on the June 7 primary ballot. The move comes just 18 days before recreational marijuana sales become legal in Montana after House Bill 701 was signed into law earlier this year. Montana voters approved recreational sales on a state level in the November 2020 election.


B-SB council gives first nod to marijuana tax

woman in bed

Butte-Silver Bow commissioners have taken the first step toward a local sales tax being imposed on recreational marijuana sales when they become legal next year, but voters will get the final say.

And though one commissioner suggested revenue from the tax be used to hire a couple of additional police officers, county Chief Executive J.P. Gallagher said he’d like to see the money steered toward mental health and addiction services.The county hasn’t done its own revenue projections yet, Gallagher said, but the taxes might bring in about $200,000 a year here based on estimates Missoula County made for its marijuana taxes.


Lake County voters to consider local marijuana tax


With the legal sale of recreational marijuana set to begin Jan. 1 across Montana, Lake County residents are being asked to weigh in on whether to impose a local tax to benefit county and city governments.

Lake County commissioners on Monday unanimously approved a resolution to hold a special election to determine whether a local-option tax of 3% will be implemented beginning in July. Commissioners produced the resolution after the county’s three municipal governments — Polson, Ronan and St. Ignatius — agreed to hold the vote and contribute to the cost of the election.


Montana's cannabis industry is scrambling to finalize details before recreational sales begin

cannabis buds

Recreational cannabis sales begin in less than two months in half of Montana’s counties. Regulators and retailers alike are scrambling to finalize last minute details before that January 1st deadline.

It’s another busy morning at Missoula’s Greenhouse Farmacy. The dispensary’s staff is picking dried bulk marijuana flower out of a large plastic storage container, pre-weighing and packing it for sale in small aluminum containers.

“I feel like I’m in a hamster wheel. It’s constant," Greenhouse Farmacy co-owner Brian Monahan says.


Billings moving closer to finalizing marijuana laws

people signing documents

BILLINGS — The Billings City Council inched closer to finalizing its marijuana business laws on Monday after making changes to aspects of zoning and capping the total number of dispensaries, according to a statement from Councilmember Kendra Shaw, who represents Ward 1.

The Council voted to keep marijuana dispensaries in heavy and light industrial, and heavy commercial zone districts. Within those zones, the dispensaries would have to be located 1,000 feet away from parks with playgrounds, churches and schools. The dispensaries must be located 150 feet from an arterial roadway.

View the map below to see spaces in Billings dispensaries may be allowed to operate.


Local governments hold roundtable discussion on recreational marijuana sales

table discussion

 Representatives from local, county and tribal government met last week to discuss strategies for regulating recreational marijuana sales which are set to begin Jan. 1, 2022. Montana voters approved the sale of recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older during the 2020 election. HB 701, passed in the 2021 legislative session, places oversight with the Department of Revenue, “provides for a local-option marijuana excise tax” and a requirement for local government approval.


Medical marijuana workers worry about possible changes to qualifying conditions

cannabis and prescription bottle

With recent discussions in Helena on qualifications to get a medical marijuana card, some people are worried PTSD and chronic pain could be removed from the list. This move could impact over 39,000 licensed card holders in the state. The Economic Affairs Interim Committee talked about the marijuana program during a hearing last week. At a previous meeting, lawmakers talked about getting rid of PTSD and chronic pain as qualifiers for a medical marijuana card.


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