**Can You Smoke Weed in Public in Montana? **
Marijuana is legal for both medical and recreational purposes in Montana. Medical marijuana was first legalized in the state in 2004 when the ballot initiative Measure I-148 was approved by voters. Qualifying patients 18 years and older with medical marijuana cardholders can purchase marijuana from licensed dispensaries in Montana. Qualifying patients under 18 are also eligible for medical marijuana cards but their parents or legal guardians must act as their caregivers. Medical marijuana cardholders are permitted by law to grow four marijuana seedlings and four mature plants.
Recreational marijuana was legalized in Montana in 2020 when another ballot initiative, I-190, was approved by voters. The provisions of Montana I-190 were amended by the House of Representatives into HB 701 in 2021. HB 701 made the possession of 1 oz of marijuana legal for Montana residents aged 21 or older. The law also gives adults the right to grow two marijuana seedlings and two mature plants at home. Montana only began to allow home cultivation of marijuana for recreational use on July 1, 2023.
The sale of recreational marijuana in Montana began on January 1, 2022 after the passage of HB 701. HB 701 legalized recreational cannabis in the state and made provisions for dispensaries to commence the sale of marijuana products for adults aged 21 years or older. Under this law, Montana adults legally started cultivating marijuana at home beginning July 1, 2023.
The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act, HR 3617, was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in 2022. It contains many provisions with potentially far-reaching implications for the legalization of marijuana in the United States. After the bill was approved by the House, it was forwarded to the U.S. Senate for deliberation.
The key provision of Section 3 of the MORE Act is a proposal to remove cannabis from the list of Schedule 1 drugs. Section 10 of the Act contains provisions that would allow individuals already convicted of marijuana crimes in federal courts to file petitions for the expungement of their records. Only individuals whose marijuana offenses were committed without violence would be eligible for this expungement.
The flowers, leaves, and resins of the Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis plants are rich in the compounds known as phytocannabinoids. Cannabis plants are consumed for recreational and medical purposes in Montana. The main ingredient in medical cannabis products is the psychoactive compound THC, which affects the body in various ways and has been proven to have medicinal benefits for patients who suffer from certain medical conditions.
Montana residents, 21 years or older, can legally purchase cannabis products from licensed dispensaries. Patients who do not have caregivers are allowed by law to keep up to 1 oz of usable medical cannabis in addition to four mature marijuana plants and 12 marijuana seedlings.Medical marijuana patients can equally purchase a maximum of 5 oz of the product within a 30-day period. They are prohibited from sharing their medical supplies with others.
Only licensed dispensaries are authorized to sell medical or recreational cannabis in Montana. Both medical and recreational marijuana can be sold by the same dispensary. Dispensaries can only sell marijuana flowers with a maximum THC level of 35%. Marijuana products sold in capsule form, as suppositories, or as transdermal patches may only contain 100 mg of THC per serving. Such products must also have no more than 800 mg of THC in the entire packet.
Marijuana products meant for topical use in Montana must contain no more than 6% THC and a maximum of 800 mg of THC per package. Marijuana-infused edibles such as cookies or candy may only contain 10% THC per serving and no more than 100 mg overall. The regulations regarding THC content do not apply to medical marijuana products, as these may contain higher levels of THC than permitted for recreational marijuana products. Dispensaries in Montana sell marijuana concentrates in such forms as shatter and terp sauce.
Depending on the offense, the penalties for marijuana-related crimes in Montana include the following:
A person found in possession of between 1-2 oz of marijuana for the first time in Montana is charged with a civil infraction and will pay a $200 fine. A second-time offender is also charged with a civil infraction and faces a $300 fine and/or six hours of community service. A person found with more than 2 oz of marijuana is charged with committing a felony. This attracts a prison term of up to five years and/or a fine of $45,000.
A person found in possession of between 1-2 oz of marijuana with the intent to distribute it in Montana is charged with a civil infraction. The offender will pay a fine of $200 and/or serve four hours of community service. A person charged for the second time with the same offense is charged with a civil infraction. The offender will pay a $300 fine and/or serve six hours of community service.
A person found in possession of more than 2 oz of marijuana is charged with committing a felony and faces a prison term of up to 20 years and a fine of $50,000.
A person found cultivating more than 2 mature marijuana plants or up to 30 plants in Montana is charged with committing a felony. The offender faces a prison term of up to 10 years and a fine of up to $50,000. A person found cultivating more than two mature marijuana plants of up to 1 pound or 30 marijuana plants is charged with committing a felony. The offender faces a sentence of between two years to life imprisonment and a fine of $50,000. Anyone charged for the second time with committing the same offense is sentenced to twice the mandatory prison term as the first time offense and twice the mandatory fine as the first time offense.
The possession of marijuana paraphernalia in Montana is charged as a misdemeanor offense and attracts a minimum prison sentence of six months. The delivery of marijuana paraphernalia to a person under the age of 18 or is three years younger than the offender is charged as a misdemeanor and attracts a prison sentence of one year and/or a $1,000 fine.
Montana law makes it unlawful for a person to operate a motor vehicle while having up to 5 ml of THC in their bloodstream. A person found driving a vehicle under the influence of marijuana in Montana risks prison term of between 24 hours and six months. The offender will also pay a fine of between $300 and $1,000. A person charged for the second time for the same offense will be sent to prison for not less than seven days and not exceeding six months. The offender will also pay a fine of between $600 and$1,000. Someone charged for the third time for driving under the influence of marijuana will be sent to prison for between 30 days and 1 year. The offender will pay a fine of between $1,000 and $5,000.
Persons accused of marijuana-related offenses in Montana can argue in court that they are registered medical marijuana card holders. Medical marijuana providers also have a defense that they possess marijuana as part of their caregiving duties. Anyone caught violating the state’s marijuana law may also hire the services of a lawyer.
Montana law allows law enforcement officials to confiscate paraphernalia, vehicles, and property used in the illegal cultivation, manufacture, and distribution of marijuana. In the case of motor vehicles, law enforcement officials are only allowed to confiscate if the amount of marijuana it was conveying is above 60 grams. A person who knowingly uses a building that has been confiscated by law enforcement because of marijuana-related offenses will be charged with a felony, and faces up to 10 years in prison.
Cannabis was first declared illegal in Montana in 1929. Subsequent federal legislation, such as the Controlled Substances Act (1970), placed cannabis in the Schedule 1 category of prohibited drugs and made its possession and consumption an offense across the entire United States.The move to legalize marijuana for medical purposes began when Montana voters approved Measure I-148 in 2004.
In 2011, the Montana Legislature passed SB 423, a bill which repealed the medical marijuana provisions of Measure I-148. Under SB 423, Montana doctors who prescribed medical marijuana to more than 25 patients over a one year period were to be investigated by the Montana Board of Examiners. The bill also sought to reduce the number of medical marijuana patients in Montana from 30,000 to under 2,000. Caregivers were to be renamed as providers, and were prohibited from serving more than three qualifying patients. SB 423 contained provisions that would prevent the Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) from adding new qualifying conditions to the approved list. Two new qualifying conditions were added to the list by SB 423: painful peripheral neuropathy and hospice stage illness. The Montana Governor at the time, Brian Schweitzer, vetoed SB 423 and its counterpart bill, HB 161.
In 2016, the success of the ballot initiative I-182 prepared to repeal SB 423 because of its strict provisions. SB 423 had proposed to restrict the number of patients that providers could have under their care. Under I-182, Montana-licensed doctors can recommend medical marijuana to patients who are suffering from chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Doctors who recommended medical marijuana to more than 25 patients annually were no longer to be probed by the Board of Examiners. In addition, it was no longer necessary to be a Montana resident in order to qualify for a license.
Another medical marijuana law was enacted in 2017 when SB 333 was signed by Governor Steve Bullock. SB 333 permitted medical marijuana patients to designate caregivers, provided the caregivers were legal residents of Montana. Under SB 333, Montana municipalities were given the right to regulate the operations of marijuana establishments in their localities.
In November 2020, I-190 won the approval of a majority of Montana voters. The ballot initiative made the possession and consumption of marijuana legal for Montana residents who are 21 years and older. The provisions of I-190 were subjected to legislative review, which birthed HB 701, enacted in 2021. The revised law transferred the authority to regulate marijuana in Montana from the DPHHS to the Montana Department of Revenue. HB 701 also contained provisions that would pave the way for Montana residents convicted of cannabis-related offenses to have their criminal records expunged.
Although both medical and recreational cannabis are legal in Montana, there are certain restrictions on the way cannabis products can be used or sold. Public consumption of cannabis is prohibited, especially on federal property located in Montana.
Under the provisions of HB 701, Montana counties where a majority of voters did not approve the legalization of recreational marijuana are allowed to ban the sale of recreational marijuana. Also, counties are empowered by law to organize special elections to determine if marijuana establishments should be allowed to operate within their jurisdictions. Counties where marijuana sales are prohibited are known as red counties. Dispensaries and other marijuana establishments in Montana are restricted from advertising their products in the electronic media.