Montana Lawmakers Approve Cannabis Tax Bill

Montana lawmakers on Monday handed a bill to allocate revenue from taxes on recreational marijuana, sending the bill to the desk of Republican Governor Greg Gianforte for his consideration. The legislation, Senate Bill 442, was accredited in a last vote by the Montana Senate on Monday after the state House of Representatives handed an amended model of the bill last week.

Montana voters legalized recreational marijuana in 2020 with the passage of Initiative 190, a ballot measure that handed with nearly 57% of the vote. Under the initiative, a tax of 20% was levied on recreational marijuana products, with income generated by the tax reserved for Habitat Montana, a 30-yr-old wildlife habitat acquisition initiative typically described as Montana’s “premiere habitat program,” based on a report from the Montana Free Press.

Governor Sought Reallocation Of Cannabis Taxes
Before the start of this year’s legislative session, the governor revealed his need to reallocate the state’s recreational marijuana taxes away from habitat purchases and as an alternative spend the money on legislation enforcement sources related to legalizing marijuana. Lawmakers responded with a number of new proposals, arguing that reallocating recreational marijuana taxes would allow the state to satisfy different pressing budgetary wants and provides the legislature extra management of the income.

In the original model of Senate Bill 442, which was introduced in February by Republican state Senator Mike Lang, a portion of cannabis tax income was diverted away from the habitat fund and as an alternative allotted to funding for county roads. Supporters of the proposal maintained that the invoice would support access to rural areas and open areas. But wildlife advocates balked on the proposal, claiming it defied the will of the voters as expressed via Initiative 190.

Lang then amended the invoice to divide the majority of cannabis tax revenue among the many state’s normal fund, funding for county roads and a new Habitat Legacy Account, which can be used for wildlife enhancements on public and private land. Smaller allocations would also be made to fund substance misuse packages, veterans providers and funding for state parks and trails.

“I think we’ve made some fairly sensible changes right here which are intended to put money into rural Montana’s roads, lands and looking opportunities while offering assist for our veterans and a rising want for drug remedy,” Lang stated after revising the bill. “At the top of the day we would like to offer our local counties and local folks the tools and resources they want to improve the situations of the land and be good stewards of Montana.”

The amended invoice acquired assist from state lawmakers and teams representing business interests including the Montana Stockgrowers Association and the Montana Petroleum Association, and conservation organizations corresponding to Wild Montana, Helena Hunters and Anglers and the Citizen’s Elk Management Coalition, all registered support for the proposal. Many county commissioners and the Montana Association of Counties additionally indicated their approval of the measure.

“Our county roads are getting used greater than ever now,” said Roman Zylawy, president of the Montana Association. “Recreation and agriculture are part of our Montana manner of life and this bill recognizes the importance of — and the necessity for — integration of all via an funding in our county roads. … The Montana Association of Counties thanks you all and we encourage, with the utmost respect, Gov. Gianforte to sign SB 442 and provide ongoing investment in our county roads.”

Competing Bill Dies In Senate
A separate bill that may have directed all cannabis tax income to the state’s basic fund passed within the House of Representatives final month. Proponents of the measure, House Bill 669 from Representative Bill Mercer, argued that lawmakers could be ready to manage the allocation of tax income and direct it to state finances priorities.

“Under 669, it could merely say that that income ought to go to the final fund and the Legislature as a whole should decide how it wishes to spend that income,” Mercer told members of the House Appropriations Committee final month. “One of the reasons that I wished to bring this invoice is that I fear that, while you basically begin to earmark dollars for special revenue accounts, they evade evaluation on an ongoing foundation. Every time we now have a diversion into a special income account, I fear that it doesn’t get the same sort of scrutiny that it does in the overall fund.”

But Jim Vashro, president of Flathead Wildlife Inc mentioned that the desire of Montana voters as expressed in the 2020 ballot measure legalizing recreational marijuana ought to prevail.

“We would hope that the Legislature would take heed to the voice of the individuals,” Vashro mentioned. “We are attempting to guard the Habitat Montana funding, which was the stated intent of Initiative 190.”

House Bill 669 was tabled by a Senate committee late last month. Senate Bill 442 has been despatched to the governor’s desk and awaits motion from Gianforte. On Monday, a spokesperson for Gianforte mentioned that the governor “has substantial concerns” about Senate Bill 442 but didn’t present further particulars on his position.

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