Is marijuana legal in Montana?
Current legality status
Cannabis is legal for qualified patients with a licensed card.
Medical marijuana is legal in Montana but recreational marijuana is not. Minors are eligible for the program with the consent of a legal guardian and approval from two physicians.
There are roughly 38,000 patients and about 240 dispensaries in the state. Montana has the third-most dispensaries per capita of all US states, and the city of Missoula has the most dispensaries per capita of any city in the country.
The state’s USDA-approved program for hemp production and growing will be implemented on November 1, 2020.
Montana’s medical program has been in a state of flux since it was voted into law in 2004. In spring 2020, the state ended its “tethering” policy, in which patients could only purchase cannabis from a single provider.
An initiative to legalize an adult-use market will appear on the Montana ballot in November 2020.
Montana medical marijuana laws
Medical use: 2004
Montana’s medical marijuana program has been bedeviled with setbacks and resets since it was first passed into law in 2004. After an initial explosion of dispensaries and years of what state officials characterized as “minimal oversight,” federal authorities began raiding Montana’s dispensaries. Then, in 2011, the state Legislature approved a measure that limited dispensaries to serving no more than three total patients.
Implementation of that law was delayed by years of court challenges, and it finally took effect in 2016, effectively booting 93% of Montana’s medical cannabis patients off the state program and into the illicit market.
Later that year, voters approved a new statewide measure that repealed the three-patient rule. It took nearly three years for the program to return its patient base to pre-2011 levels.
The program is run by the state’s Department of Health and Human Services (DPHHS). The Department maintains a website with instructions and FAQs for patients and providers alike.
Adult use: 2020 ballot
A campaign led by New Approach Montana in the midst of the coronavirus shutdown gathered enough signatures to place two legalization initiatives on the 2020 ballot, despite being prevented from gathering signatures virtually:
- Initiative 190 would legalize recreational marijuana in Montana, establish a regulatory framework for cultivation and sales, and tax it at a rate of 20%.
- CI-118 sets the legal age for purchasing, consuming, or possessing marijuana at 21—otherwise, Montana defines an adult as an individual 18 years or older.
The initiative is custom-made to appeal to Montanans: It proposes to direct the bulk of revenue generated by the program toward land conservation and services for veterans, who comprise about 10% of the state’s population. The program would be under the purview of the Department of Revenue, not DPHHS.
Support New Approach Montana’s legalization efforts by donating here. You can also make sure you’re registered to vote.
Missoula is the only county in Montana that has decriminalized cannabis possession; individuals can still be fined up to $500 for possession of up to 60 grams (roughly two ounces), and cannot face jail time for a first offense.
Montana cannabis possession laws
Medical marijuana is legal in Montana, but there are limits—and stepping outside those limits could result in a fine or even jail time. Here are the current penalties:
- First offense (60g or less): Misdemeanor, six months incarceration, $500 fine
- Second offense (60g or less): Misdemeanor, three years incarceration, $1,000 fine
- More than 60g: Felony, five years incarcerations, $50,000 fine
How to get a medical marijuana card in Montana
A medical marijuana card costs $30 in Montana, and must be renewed annually for $10. Additionally, patients must pay for a physician’s evaluation as part of their application.
Montana qualifying conditions for medical marijuana
About 38,000 Montanans have state-issued medical marijuana cards. To be registered as a medical marijuana patient in Montana, a physician may recommend the use of medical marijuana for these conditions:
- Cancer, glaucoma, or positive status for human immunodeficiency virus, or acquired immune deficiency syndrome when the condition or disease results in symptoms that seriously and adversely affect the patient’s health status
- Cachexia or wasting syndrome
- Severe chronic pain that is persistent pain of severe intensity that significantly interferes with daily activities as documented by the patient’s treating physician
- Intractable nausea or vomiting
- Epilepsy or an intractable seizure disorder
- Multiple sclerosis
- Crohn’s disease
- Painful peripheral neuropathy
- A central nervous system disorder resulting in chronic, painful spasticity or muscle spasms
- Admittance into hospice care
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Montana cannabis DUI laws
Like everywhere else, it’s illegal to drive while under the influence of alcohol, cannabis, or other controlled substances in Montana. According to NORML, “it is a crime to operate a motor vehicle with 5ng/ml or more THC in [your] blood. This prohibition applies to both patients and non-patients alike.”
If a driver refuses a drug test, their license will immediately be seized by law enforcement. Upon a first refusal, a suspension of six months with no provision for a restricted probationary license; upon a second or subsequent refusal within 5 years of a previous refusal, as determined from the records of the department, a suspension of one year with no provision for a restricted probationary license.
Common questions about marijuana legalization in Montana
Is Montana recreational?
No. That may change in November 2020. If legalization initiatives pass, the program would begin accepting and issuing licenses by October 1, 2021. You can support Montana’s legalization efforts and ballot initiatives CI-118 and I-190 by donating to New Approach Montana.
Is CBD legal in Montana?
Yes, but there are some caveats. A store such as a pharmacy or a grocery can sell CBD products manufactured anywhere in the country, but marijuana dispensaries can only sell CBD and CBD products cultivated in-state.
Is smokable hemp allowed in Montana?
Yes, smokable hemp is allowed in Montana.
Can my landlord prohibit marijuana growing, possession, and use in my own unit?
Yes and no. The written permission of a landlord is needed to grow cannabis on premise. But as with tobacco smoking and pets, a landlord may prohibit growing, smoking, vaping, and dabbing on the grounds of real or potential property destruction and/or odor nuisance.
Note: Marijuana possession remains prohibited in federally subsidized housing or housing that uses Section 8 vouchers. In those places, possession or use may result in eviction.
Are there places in Montana where marijuana is still outlawed?
Yes. All forms of cannabis remain illegal on federal property. Examples include national parks, national forests, land managed by the US Bureau of Land Management, federal prisons, and all federal buildings and offices regardless of department. Federally subsidized housing units also prohibit all forms of cannabis, including simple possession.
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