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First 2 days of sales of recreational marijuana top $1.5 million in Montana

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — During the first weekend of legal recreational marijuana sales in Montana, customers purchased more than $1.5 million in products, the Department of Revenue said.

The 20% sales tax raised over $313,000 in revenue for the state.

Jeff Radke inquires about concentrate cannabis products at the Higher Standard in Helena, Montana, on Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022, the first day of legal recreational marijuana sales in Montana. State licensed businesses sold more than $1.5 million in marijuana products of Saturday and Sunday, the Department of Revenue said. Photo Thom Bridge/Independent Record via AP

Another $443,000 in medical marijuana was sold on a Saturday and Sunday, the agency said, bringing in another $17,300 in tax revenue, the Montana State News Bureau reported. Medical marijuana is taxed at a 4% rate.

“This is a great start to what will prove to be a significant tax contribution from Montana’s cannabis industry,” said Pepper Petersen, president and CEO of the Montana Cannabis Guild.

Montana voters approved recreational marijuana use for adults 21 and older in November 2020. The 2021 Legislature passed a bill to implement the program beginning on Jan. 1, allowing adults to buy and possess an ounce of cannabis, up to 8 grams of concentrate or edibles containing up to 800 mg of THC — the main psychoactive compound in cannabis.

Under the implementation bill, the first $6 million in taxes on recreational marijuana each year would fund a Medicaid program to increase behavioral health and addiction treatment in Montana. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is reviewing the state’s proposal.

After that, 20% of what remains will fund wildlife habitat, a total of 12% would go to state parks, trails and nongame wildlife while 3% — up to $200,000 — would go to a fund that provides services for veterans and surviving spouses and children. Another $300,000 this year will provide grants to law enforcement agencies to buy and train drug detection dogs and their handlers while $150,000 goes to the board of crime control to fund crisis intervention team training. Any additional money goes to the state general fund.

Only businesses that had sold medical marijuana prior to the November 2020 election are eligible to sell recreational marijuana through July 2023, when additional businesses can be licensed.

The governor’s budget office estimates there will be $130 million in recreational marijuana sales this year and $195.5 million in 2023.

Recreational marijuana was available in 29 of the state’s 56 counties on New Year’s Day. In counties where a majority of voters rejected the recreational marijuana initiative, another election can be held to reconsider.

Dawson County, whose voters rejected the marijuana initiative in November 2020, last month approved recreational sales.

The recreational use of cannabis is legalized in 18 states and the District of Columbia. Voters in South Dakota approved recreational cannabis in 2020 at the same time they approved use of medical cannabis.  But South Dakota’s Governor Kristi Noem, who opposed both recreational and medical cannabis, was successful in her lawsuit brought before the South Dakota Supreme Court that rejected the constitutionality of the ballot measure for recreational use that had been brought by the public – after the state’s legislature refused to introduce a bill.

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