Marijuana in MT Timeline

2004 – Medical marijuana becomes available in Montana as a result of a successful citizens’ initiative, I-148. Over the first five years of the medical marijuana program in MT approximately 5000 individuals become cardholders.

2009 – A convergence variables including the Ogden Memo, the emergence of traveling clinics in MT, and increasing awareness resulted in an explosion in the number of medical marijuana cardholders and “caregivers” providing medical marijuana. Over the next 18 months, from late Oct ’09 – Dec ’10, cardholder numbers grew to nearly 30,000. There were more than 4000 caregivers in MT. There was no program oversite or regulation, just a registry of cardholders and caregivers.

2010 – In order to manage the program growth, the legislative interim committee on Children and Families developed a committee bill to regulate the program. The bill was not successful in the 2011 legislature.

2011 – During the 2011 Legislative session there were a dozen bills proposed to regulate the medical marijuana program. Almost all were designed to dismantle access in MT. On March 14, 2011, federal raids changed the tone for the conversation about regulation in Montana and threw a chill over the program. People were afraid. Legislation to repeal the program altogether passed but was vetoed by Governor Schweitzer. In the end, the legislature passed hastily drafted SB 423 which was de facto repeal of the MT medical marijuana program.

2011 – The MT Cannabis Industry Association (MTCIA) hired constitutional attorney, Jim Goetz, and filed a lawsuit to keep some provisions of SB 423 from going into effect, including the limit on the number of cardholders to three that a provider could serve and a prohibition on being paid to provide medical marijuana. The judge enjoined four provisions of the law, including the above. This allowed the program to keep their doors open. .

2011-2016 – The lawsuit protected the medical program for the next 5 years. Members of the MTCIA, a fraction of those serving medical marijuana cardholders, carried the burden of $617,000 in legal fees to keep the doors open for Montana businesses and cardholders. The effort included two trips to the MT Supreme Court. In 2016, the Court ruled against the MTCIA and for the state. This ruling would all but shut down medical marijuana access in MT.  

2016 – Anticipating the judgement, in March of 2016, the MTCIA launched a second medical marijuana initiative in Montana, I-182. The initiative was successful. The program was “closed” for only 10 weeks.

2017 – The MTCIA forwarded the first model for regulating medical marijuana in Montana, including testing, tracking, and the allowance for concentrates. This model, SB 333, carried by Sen. Mary Caferro, passed the state legislature with broad bipartisan support.

2018 – Efforts were made to rewrite the 2017 law through the rulemaking process by a Montana state legislator on behalf of her marijuana business interests and that of her law client. The effort, which included the cooperation of a state bureaucrat, resulted in an 18-month delay in implementing the law. The situation ended up in court (DV 18-1589). The effort to undermine the law was not successful. The bureaucrat was removed from the program.

2019 – The MTCIA forwarded SB 265 sponsored by Sen. Tom Jacobson. This legislation closed loopholes in the law and allowed for cardholders to purchase medical marijuana from any licensed provider (“untethering”). Untethering is scheduled to go into effect June 2, 2020. Since 2004, cardholders were only able to purchase medical marijuana from one individual identified on the cardholder’s paperwork with the state.

2019 -2020 – The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) launched an initiative effort in Montana through a group called New Approach. This effort is to legalize adult use of marijuana in Montana. Signature gathering was delayed by the COVID 19 crisis.  New Approach petitioned the courts for an extension on signature gathering and the allowance of digital signatures. The Judge denied the requests. The group launched signature gathering in early May 2020. The deadline for signatures is June 19, 2020.

June 2, 2020 – Cardholders in the Medical Marijuana Program will become untethered from providers. Since the onset of the program in 2004, cardholders have been required to purchase cannabis from a singular provider identified on the cardholder’s paperwork. As of June 2, 2020, cardholders will be able to purchase from any licensed provider.

August 2020 – Legalization initiative I-190 qualifies for the November ballot.