STATE NEWS

Legal Cannibas:
Next steps, and what you can do now

Anticipating Gov. Greg Gianforte’s signing of
House Bill 701 into law, the Department of Revenue
is preparing to implement Montana’s adult-use
marijuana system.

 

by Justin Franz
Montana Free Press

 

May 7, 2021—

While the bill that
establishes the
framework of
recreational
cannabis in
Montana is still waiting for Gov. Greg Gianforte’s signature, the
department that will implement the program is
wasting no time getting ready.

Officials at the Montana Department of Revenue are already preparing to take over the state’s medical marijuana program, which is currently part of the Department of Public Health and Human Services, and establish a newly legalized adult-use market as outlined in House Bill 701, which was passed by the Legislature in late April.

Following the passage of Initiative 190 in November, it became legal on Jan. 1 for adults to possess no more than one ounce of marijuana for personal use in the state of Montana. Presently, the only legal way to acquire cannabis for adult-use purposes is to grow it yourself — traveling to a state where recreational cannabis is legal to buy and bringing it back to Montana would break federal law. I-190 allows residents to have up to four marijuana plants of their own, but that will be reduced to two plants per person or four plants per household once HB 701 is signed.

Residents who don’t want to grow their own
marijuana and who do not have a medical marijuana card will have to wait until Jan. 1, 2022, when already established medical dispensaries can start selling it
to all adults. HB 701 gives established Montana
medical marijuana providers an 18-month head start on the adult-use market, and dispensaries that are not already established will not be able to apply for an adult-use license from the state until July 1, 2023.

HB 701 will also require that any marijuana
transported in an automobile be in a secure bag (unopened, in its original packaging) in the trunk
or locked in the glove compartment. Anyone caught with marijuana or cannabis products that are not properly secured could be fined up to $100. HB 701 also prohibits the smoking of marijuana in a public place, other than establishments licensed for its consumption, and those who do could be fined up to $50.

According to HB 701, the THC of marijuana flowers (the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis that produces the sensation of being high) may not exceed 35%, and an edible or capsule must have no more than 100 milligrams of THC per capsule and no more than 800 milligrams of THC per package.

While much of this is spelled out in HB 701,
Department of Revenue spokesperson Sanjay Talwani said a lot of work remains to implement the law.
The department will also have to start managing the medical marijuana program on July 1, 2022, when it (and some of the employees associated with it) are transferred from the Department of Public Health and Human Services.

“We’re in the early stages of this and there’s a lot of work to do,” Talwani said.

According to Talwani, the department will be
issuing five different types of licenses, including for cultivation, manufacture (making edibles and other marijuana products), sale, laboratory testing and transport. It will be possible for a single company to hold multiple types of licenses. The state is also going to issue eight combined-use licenses (allowing for cultivation and sale) to each federally recognized tribe in Montana for the establishment of tribally owned dispensaries, so long as they are within a county that voted in support of I-190 last year.

As written in the initiative, counties had the ability to opt out of the adult-use cannabis market. But HB 701 makes it so counties where the majority of people voted for legalization could opt out of the market, and counties where it was not supported would have to opt into the market.

As a result, marijuana opponents and proponents say the battle over recreational cannabis will now move to the county level. Opponents are confident that residents who opposed I-190 won’t change their minds now. Proponents say that those communities will not want to miss out on the tax revenues
generated by the adult-use business.

 

To read more from Justin Franz and to follow
all Montana State news from Montana Free Press,

please visit montanafreepress.org.

Missoula College Cybersecurity Workforce Grows

Press Release — Office of the Governor

 

HELENA, Mont. – Governor Greg Gianforte visited Missoula College on Friday, May 7, to tout the state’s growing cybersecurity workforce through the college’s National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber
Defense Two-Year Education. (CAE2Y)

“Missoula College is nationally recognized for its cybersecurity program that is training Montana’s future cybersecurity leaders,” Gov. Gianforte said. “We’re focused on developing a talented cybersecurity workforce in the state to ensure Montanans’ personal information and data are safe, secure, and protected.”

Gov. Gianforte addresses cybersecurity professionals in a roundtable at Missoula College.

At the college, the governor cohosted a roundtable discussion on cybersecurity workforce development with president of the University of Montana Seth Bodnar, dean of Missoula College Tom Gallagher, chief information officer for Montana Kevin Gilbertson, chief information security officer for Montana Andy Hanks, and public-private cybersecurity stakeholders.

“There is no place more prepared to help meet workforce demands than UM,” said UM President Seth
Bodnar. “Whether it is the traditional student out of high school or the lifelong learners who need new job training, Montana’s next generation of cyber warriors will be trained right here in the Montana Cyber Hub
at Missoula College.”

The governor had announced on March 29 that
Montana is one of five states selected to participate in the National Governors Association’s 2021 Policy
Academy to Advance Whole-of-State Cybersecurity.

In the new policy academy, Montana will work on developing and implementing cybersecurity workforce development plans.

Speaking about Montana’s participation in the
program, chief information security officer Andy Hanks said, “We want to ensure that Montana employers have access to a skilled cybersecurity workforce, and we want our cybersecurity workforce to have access to high-paying Montana jobs. The Gianforte Administration wants a cybersecurity talent pipeline in Montana.”

At the roundtable, the governor heard about barriers to the development of Montana’s cybersecurity workforce, like a lack of access to reliable broadband across the state. Using federal funds, Montana
has committed $275 million to build out broadband
infrastructure and help close the digital divide.