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.


Montana: McLaughlin Research Institute Pitches Medical Marijuana Research Idea

The board chairman of the McLaughlin Research Institute floated an idea by lawmakers wrestling with medical marijuana legislation this session to have the facility be part of a program to test cannabis products.

In a March 15 email to some Great Falls legislators, Randy Gray said MRI could contract with the state Department of Public Health and Human Services to test the products and research cannabis addictive properties and ways to control them.

“The result would be efficient for Montana, effective for users of medical marijuana and helpful to stabilize and expand MRI’s science staff,” Gray states in his email that includes Democratic Rep. Tom Jacobson and GOP Sens. Brian Hoven and Ed Buttrey.


Montana: Bill proposes study on legalizing recreational marijuana for discussion in 2019 Legislature

A Helena legislator introduced a bill Thursday that would create a committee to study the effects of legalizing recreational marijuana in Montana for presentation to the 2019 Legislature.

House Joint Resolution 35, introduced by Rep. Mary Dunwell, D-Helena, would request the legislative committee which oversees interim committees to form one to “examine the legalization, regulation, taxation, and public health and safety aspects of recreational marijuana in Montana.”


Montana Supreme Court declines to intervene in 'usable' marijuana case

The Montana Supreme Court declined to step into the criminal case of a Montana medical marijuana patient who is challenging the possession limit statute.

The case of 65-year-old Wayne Steven Penning, who faces a felony count of criminal possession of dangerous drugs with intent to distribute, is still pending in Yellowstone County District Court.

In January, Penning had asked the Supreme Court to take over the case to consider his request to dismiss the charge. He argued that the medical marijuana statute, which limits cardholders to possession of one ounce of "usable" marijuana, is too vague. 

Penning was arrested for exceeding that limit in 2015 when a Montana Highway Patrol trooper stopped him with harvested marijuana from four of his plants. 


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