Montana Marijuana Industry Sees Constant Delays

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Montana, a state that seems to always be busy when it comes to finding ways to focus upon ways to differentiate between recreational and medical marijuana, is doing it again. For the last month or so, legislation has been volleyed about that would require medical marijuana cultivators to produce and operate their product lines in indoor facilities only; this would leave the great outdoors for hemp production only.

Although medical marijuana growers oppose this measure strongly, a state Senate panel listened to the bill, understanding that what it would do, for the most part, is prevent cross-pollination between hemp and marijuana. With hemp growing only in Mother Nature, so to speak, and marijuana growing in greenhouses (AKA: hoop houses), this cross-pollination between the products could no longer occur.

Sponsor of the bill, Sen. Tom Jacobson, spoke about the figures, showing the rest of the lawmakers that the majority of marijuana growers already do grow indoors in their attempt to maximize year-round production. In addition, if the bill were to pass, outdoor Montana farmers could then use hemp to diversify their operations and make more money. On top of that support and logic, Montana’s own agriculture department also firmly supports the bill.

When looking at the other point of view, medical marijuana grower’s objections are also firm, stating that by allowing this to happen, their investments of cash they’ve already made into purchasing outdoor facilities for growing their product would suffer. With this money already spent, they are looking at a loss they certainly were not prepared to take. But their argument doesn’t end there. They were also adamant, especially considering the numbers, that the medical side of things is more lucrative than the state’s hemp program, seeing as that medical marijuana has been in place far longer than the other.

It was Montana voters who legalized adult-use marijuana in November of 2020, which will make the industry much healthier economically. While rules for adult-use marijuana production in the state are still in development, if the results of Colorado and the rest who’ve legalized marijuana are correct (which they are), Montana wants to make sure they do not lose out on the wealth of benefits recreational sales will bring.

The Montana debate and bill came about because outdoor marijuana and hemp farmers were increasingly getting angrier with each other over pollen drift. You see, according to research done at Michigan State University, a single male cannabis flower is capable of producing 350,000 pollen grains that have the ability to travel great distances in the wind.

Lawmakers have also supposedly stopped SB 341, which is a proposal that would have limited THC potency to 15% in all recreational marijuana products. However, the Montana Cannabis Industry Association reported that, although it’s supposedly dead and buried because it was estimated that SB 341 would cost the state at least $1 million to implement, rumors are that the THC potency limit might still be reintroduced in another bill during the year. Retail stores are scheduled to begin selling products in 2022, but if more bills keep coming – like this one that has medical marijuana pitted against hemp farmers – than a great deal more than $1 million dollars will be lost by the time anyone comes to an agreement.

Take as an example, Montana Advanced Caregivers, a medical marijuana dispensary in Billings, who say their business and the state will lose millions of dollars if the voter-approved recreational marijuana program is delayed until, say…January of 2023.

This one business is set to lose hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars in sales if delays and new battles keep cropping up. Right now, Montana created a market and the University of Montana projects $200 million in sales in just the first year alone. Even the Montana Advanced Caregivers, who have been growing and selling medical marijuana to patients in Billings since 2008, operate three shops and are now building a fourth because of their expectations to step into the recreational market at some point. But it was only last week that another bill was introduced that would delay the date the state will begin accepting recreational shop license applications for one year.

This is one of the largest agricultural states in the U.S.; therefore, using that natural resource makes more sense than delaying programs in order to segregate medical from recreational; hemp production from marijuana; and pitting outdoor versus indoor facilities against one another. There have been literally eight bills introduced into the Legislature seeking to amend the recreational marijuana law in Montana in just a few weeks’ time, making economic growth seem further away than it ever was before.

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