Three months in, the new adult-use cannabis program in Montana has generated tens of millions of dollars in sales, netting $8.7 million in tax revenue.
That comes via the state’s Department of Revenue, which detailed recreational pot sales in the state for the first quarter of the year.
In total, the adult-use market that launched at the start of the year has produced $43,537,110.29 in sales. For comparison, the state’s medical cannabis program generated $29,373,731.81 worth of sales during the same time period.
Montana voters legalized recreational cannabis for adults during the 2020 election, one of four states to end pot prohibition on the ballot that year (Arizona, South Dakota and New Jersey were the other three).
Getting the program ready in time for the start of this year was tight.
Officials in the state didn’t propose their final rules to govern the new regulated cannabis marketplace until October, leaving the Department of Revenue very little time to iron out all the regulations.
“The deadlines are aggressive,” Kristan Barbour, administrator of the Department of Revenue’s Cannabis Control Division, said at the time. “Really, the rules are our biggest challenge.”
“Our focus was really to be business-friendly and to try to work with the industry in a fashion that makes the rules adaptable to their current business structure and that they’ll be able to evolve into without a whole lot of pain,” Barbour added.
But despite the time constraints, the regulated cannabis market was open for business as scheduled on New Year’s Day.
Local television station KTVH reported that an “estimated 380 dispensaries in 29 counties are now able to sell marijuana to both medical and recreational customers.” In the program’s opening weekend at the beginning of January, Montana reported more than $1.5 million in cannabis sales.
The legalization effort in the United States has been buoyed by the economic incentives of regulating sales of pot. A report issued this week by the Marijuana Policy Project drove that point home, revealing that states that legalized adult-use cannabis sales generated more than $3.7 billion in total revenue last year.
That figure represented a 34% uptick from 2020, when states with recreational pot sales generated $2,766,027,570 in revenue. Since 2014, states have generated $11.2 billion in tax revenue from adult-use cannabis sales, according to the Marijuana Policy Project.
“The legalization and regulation of cannabis for adults has generated billions of dollars in tax revenue, funded important services and programs at the state level, and created thousands of jobs across the country. Meanwhile, the states that lag behind continue to waste government resources on enforcing archaic cannabis laws that harm far too many Americans,” said Toi Hutchinson, the president and CEO of the Marijuana Policy Project, who said that the group’s findings serve as “further evidence that ending cannabis prohibition offers tremendous financial benefits for state governments.”
Legalization isn’t just about the money brought in, of course. States that have ended prohibition on pot have also sought to remedy the past injustices brought on by the War on Drugs.
Last month, the Montana Supreme Court issued temporary rules for procedures through which individuals may have past cannabis-related convictions expunged from their records.
The state’s new cannabis law says “anyone convicted of an offense that would now be legal in the state can petition to have their conviction removed from their record, get a lesser sentence for it or reclassify it to a lesser offense,” according to local television station KPAX.
In the rules laid out last month, the state Supreme Court made it clear that they may submit their request for expungement to the court where they were originally sentenced.