Sales of recreational pots continue to soar in Big Sky Country, with Montana hitting a record total last month.
The state Department of Revenue reported adult cannabis sales in Montana totaled more than $17 million in the month of June, the highest figure since recreational pot sales began in January.
Between recreational and medical pot, Montana generated nearly $150 million in combined cannabis sales this year. According to local news station NBC Montana, combined recreational and medical sales have generated nearly $21 million in state taxes so far this year.
Recreational cannabis is taxed at 20% in Montana, while medical cannabis only has a 4% state sales tax.
Unsurprisingly, recreational pot sales have surpassed medical cannabis sales in the state.
From January to June, Montana’s new recreational cannabis program generated $93,747,110, compared to $54,324,681 in medical cannabis sales.
The state previously forecast $130 million in recreational cannabis sales this year and more than $195 million in 2023.
Recreational pot sales in Montana kicked off with great fanfare on New Year’s Day. It was one of four states that passed ballot measures legalizing cannabis for adult use in 2020 (Arizona, South Dakota and New Jersey were the other three).
On opening weekend, cannabis sales totaled more than $1.5 million in Montana.
The local newspaper, the Independent recordingreported at the time that dispensaries in the capital Helena “had lines of people crammed inside to avoid the cold temperatures, while others saw a weak but steady stream of foot traffic until midday” .
Local TV station KTVH reported that the program launched in January with “approximately 380 dispensaries in 29 counties now able to sell marijuana to medical and recreational customers.”
Following the successful passage of the ballot legalization measure, Montana lawmakers quickly passed a bill in 2021 that established a framework for recreational cannabis sales in the state.
For Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte, perhaps the most important piece of this legislation was the HEART fund, which will use revenue from the recreational pot program to subsidize drug treatment in the state.
“From the start, I have been clear that we need to bring more resources to fight the drug epidemic that is devastating our communities,” Gianforte said after signing the legislation. “By funding a full continuum of substance abuse prevention and treatment programs for communities, the HEART Fund will provide new support for Montanans who want to become clean, sober and healthy.”
The new law also includes a legal mechanism by which people previously convicted of certain weed-related offenses can request that those records be deleted.
In March, the Montana Supreme Court issued temporary rules governing these expungement proceedings.
According to Missoula Currentthe new law “indicates that anyone convicted of an offense that would now be legal in the state may request that their conviction be removed from their criminal record, obtain a lesser sentence for it, or reclassify them to a lesser offense.”
The biggest clarification issued by the state Supreme Court “was letting people know that they could submit their request for expungement to the court where they were originally sentenced,” according to the Missoula Current.
Montana state court administrator Beth McLaughlin told the Missoula Current“there had been some confusion due to a separate expungement procedure for misdemeanors which requires all defendants to go through the district courts”, but that the law “says that the courts should presume that a person is eligible for disbarment unless the county attorney proves otherwise.”
“The point is to make it easier for litigants,” McLaughlin said, quoted by the Missoula Current. “The goal is to make them as readily available as possible.”