Montana releases final medical marijuana program rules, which take effect in April

The state health department tweaked its medical marijuana program rules for testing, fees and other areas before releasing its final draft Feb. 9.

The rules define much of the inner workings of the multimillion-dollar industry, adding to a 2016 ballot initiative and a bill in the 2017 Montana Legislature that set up the system.

The rules specify what kinds of contaminants labs will test for in the marijuana, how providers will secure their businesses and how marijuana will be labeled, among other things.


Conference addresses Montana medical marijuana production

Despite snowy conditions in Helena on Friday, dozens of people visited the Montana State Capitol to take part in a statewide conference on the medical marijuana industry.

Organizers said the Montana Cannabis Conference is intended as a free educational event for people involved in the industry and for those who simply want to learn more about it.

“We wanted to give a one-day ability for folks to learn about farming and cultivation science and testing labs and medicine,” said state Rep. Ellie Hill Smith, a Democrat from Missoula and a board member of The Cannabis Way, Montana Chapter, a nonprofit group that sponsored the event.


Montana drafts medical marijuana regulations

The state health department has drafted proposed regulations for the medical marijuana industry, setting rules for quality testing, tracking and increasing fees.

The Department of Public Health and Human Services plans a public hearing in Helena on Nov. 30.

Agency spokesman Jon Ebelt says the state sought input from Montana providers and researched practices in states that have legalized marijuana use.

Under the rules, providers would have to have their products tested for levels of THC along with metals and pesticides.

Annual licensing fees would be $5,000 for providers with more than 10 registered patients, $1,000 for smaller providers and $2,000 for testing labs. The patient fee would be raised from $5 to $30.


Montana health department drafts dozens of new medical marijuana rules

The state health department released a pack of proposed rules for the medical marijuana industry, which will be the subject of a public hearing later this month.

The rules provide new information about how the industry would be regulated in areas like employment, product tracking and testing, security and fees. They focus on the production, sales and testing side of the business rather than patients.

Health department spokesman Jon Ebelt said in an email that DPHHS took input from the Montana industry and researched practices in "all states" that have marijuana programs.

Twenty-nine states have legalized recreational or medical marijuana. Ebelt said they provided blueprints, especially for more intensive parts of the Montana program like testing.


Montana: Medical marijuana tax rakes in $300k in first quarter

Montana medical marijuana providers paid about $300,000 in taxes for the first quarter, which ended in September.

The tax was the first of its kind on the Montana medical marijuana industry, which is seeing a resurgence in enrollment after the passage of more comprehensive regulatory laws this spring.

About 315 providers made tax payments at 4 percent on their gross sales receipts.

"It works out to be about $7.5 million in gross revenues," said Mary Ann Dunwell, spokeswoman for the Montana Department of Revenue.

Dunwell said that most providers paid an average of $800 in taxes for that first quarter. But a few of the larger providers had large tax bills.

One provider brought $30,000 in cash to the revenue department in Helena, Dunwell said.


Montana's medical marijuana industry expected to hit $18.7 million this year

Medical marijuana will soon give a small boost to Montana's general fund that could eventually rise to hundreds of thousands of tax dollars annually.

Thanks to a new law that went into effect this July, the state will soon collect taxes on about $18.75 million in medical marijuana sales in 2017, the first year

That estimate, released Tuesday by the Montana Department of Revenue, adds up to hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax revenue as providers begin submitting 4 percent of gross sales.

The department expects the state will collect $750,000 in tax revenue in the first year of SB 333, the legislation that authorized medical marijuana in Montana.


Montana: Helena Valley Hemp Crop Dries up amid Stagnant Legal Dispute

It turns out seedlings dry out in the Montana sun quicker than the federal government can act.

A 12-acre crop of hemp plants in the Helena Valley died after getting caught up in a legal dispute over water access this summer.

Kim Phillips, the hemp farmer, was in full compliance with state and federal regulations on industrial hemp, according to Cort Jensen, attorney for the state agriculture department. But access to a federally controlled water source left her crops hanging in the void as the summer heat crept in.


How distracting is THC to drivers? Enough for a marijuana DUI fatal case to proceed, judge says

A district judge in Yellowstone County denied an attorney's challenge to the constitutionality of Montana's DUI law for marijuana.

Public defender Gregory Paskell argued that the 5 ng/mL blood content threshold that constitutes a DUI in Montana isn't supported as a scientific point of impairment.

Paskell represents Kent Roderick Jensen, 20, who was charged with vehicular homicide while under the influence after he crashed into a motorcycle in March 2016, killing the rider.

A blood test showed Jensen's blood contained 19 ng/mL of THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana.


Montana medical marijuana dispensary owner sentenced to federal prison

The former owner of Montana Buds, a statewide medical marijuana dispensary network, was sentenced Thursday to 18 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to a drug charge.

Charlton Victor Campbell was sentenced by Chief District Court Judge Dana Christensen in U.S. District Court in Missoula. Following his incarceration, he will be under supervised release for an additional five years.

In March, Campbell pleaded guilty to a federal charge of conspiracy to manufacture and distribute marijuana after signing a plea agreement with federal prosecutors that dismissed three other charges.

Under the agreement, Campbell also forfeited $30,000 in cash and gave up the Montana Buds properties in Bozeman to the federal government.


Montana preparing to collect 1st medical marijuana tax

State revenue officials are working on the roll-out of the latest medical marijuana program with a tax on the drug — the first of its kind in the state — which could increase the agency's capacity for handling cash.

Legislators passed SB333 this spring, adding a number of regulations to the program. That includes a gross sales tax that providers will start putting on the books on July 1.

The tax will be 4 percent of gross sales from July 1, 2017, to June 30, 2018. After that the tax will be 2 percent.


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