Last November, voters passed a Montana recreational marijuana legalization ballot measure. But that was just the beginning of a process. State lawmakers have now advanced a single bill to regulate and tax Cannabis. It will also direct the revenue from those taxes.
Millions of dollars will pour into the Department of Revenue to hire 34 new employees to run the marijuana program. After that, $6 million a year goes to Gov. Greg Gianforte’s Healing and Ending Addiction Through Recovery and Treatment, or “HEART” Fund, reports the Missoula Current.
Once that fund is filled, about $5 million will fund state conservation efforts. These prominently include the Habitat Montana fund, which allows the state to buy land for conservation.
Democratic leaders said the addition of funding for Habitat Montana was a big factor bringing Democrats on board for the legalization bill. HB 701 had been primarily pushed by Republicans.
“Us putting the select committee together — I think we got a lot of the work done that I think that the House really wanted to do before it came over — and what they were unable to do,” Sen. Jill Cohenour, D-East Helena, said at a press conference Friday morning.
After multiple delays due to a COVID case at the Capitol and the amendment-drafting process, the committee took an amended version of House Bill 701 to the Senate floor for further debate on Wednesday. The Senate passed it back to the House Friday.
House Bill 701 came out of a special committee in charge with making a plan to implement the legalization of recreational Cannabis.
In drafting this compromise Montana legalization bill, lawmakers sorted through three other bills. Those provided various plans for implementing for adult-use recreational marijuana.