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Wed Apr 7, 2021, 12:32 AM

Three visions for recreational marijuana emerge from Montana House

That Montana’s medical marijuana program had a rocky beginning — a ballooning number of dispensaries and patients following legalization in 2004 led to raids by the feds, lawsuits and regular intervention from Republican lawmakers that kneecapped the program after nearly killing it altogether — is no secret to Rep. Mike Hopkins.

The Missoula Republican often mentions that “Wild West era” in legislative debates and conversations with the press and public. But he doesn’t do it to scare people away from legal pot. Rather, he uses that time in the state’s recent past as a reference point and a lesson in how the state can take next steps into uncharted (at least for Montana) territory: A policy regime providing for legalized, taxed and strictly regulated recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older.

That’s the objective of House Bill 701, an expansive bill standing up an adult-use marijuana system that a somewhat reluctant GOP majority in the state House approved 59-41 Tuesday evening following lengthy floor debate in which lawmakers dispatched of dozens of amendments, moving what Hopkins believes to be one of the most comprehensive marijuana implementation plans anywhere in the country a step closer to becoming law.

As the bill stands currently, licensing for dispensaries — a process that current medical marijuana businesses have an 18-month head start on — would begin in January, with retail likely beginning in March. The bill would move almost all of the state’s marijuana program from the Department of Health and Human Services to the Department of Revenue, as well as set up a complicated regulatory system for both halves of the industry. It would also create a process for the re-sentencing and expungement of previous convictions for marijuana possession, though not quite to the degree as Initiative 190, which set in motion the process of legalization when voters resoundingly approved the measure in November.

Read more: https://dailymontanan.com/2021/04/06/three-visions-for-recreational-marijuana-emerge-from-montana-house/

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