Update on 2017 Medical Marijuana Legislation
The first half of the 2017 legislative session involved considerable conversations with legislators and other stakeholders up at the Capitol. The MTCIA has contributed to draft legislation expected to be introduced in March. The MTCIA brought the following provisions to the table:
- Establishment of a seed-to-sale tracking system
- Shifting the plants-to-patient model of managing volume to a licensing per square foot cultivated model
- Mandated testing only if DPHHS could ensure affordability, availability, and standardization.
- Inclusion of concentrates as “medical marijuana”
- Five year residency requirement
The MTCIA also requested that parents with a minor with a medical marijuana referral could use a provider.
Other parties came to the table, too. Two of those parties sought serious re-writes of Montana’s medical marijuana law. One (Trace Analytics, a lab from Washington who has hired a lobbyist in MT) proposed provisions that would repeal current law and instead install Washington’s model (a “rec” model) on Montana’s medical program. This would not make Montana a “rec” state, only impose the rec laws on our significantly smaller medical program. The other interest (MEANM) proposed repealing the current law in favor of the bill carried by Dave Lewis in 2011, a bill that in the MTCIA’s opinion is dated, a step backward. Though MEANM still has interest in this, they have also suggested they will support the upcoming legislation, as well.
After conversations and negotiations with legislators and stakeholders, it was determine that undermining the initiative passed in November would not be supported by the legislature. Trace Analytics, however, did contribute language to the draft legislation creating parameters for cannabis testing and cannabis labs.
Testing May Be the Hot Topic
It appears the testing issue may be the most controversial of the provisions in the legislation. The MTCIA has been consistent in our position that we support mandatory testing as long as it’s affordable, available, and standardized. In the course of the discussion on testing, several issues have been brought up by legislators, including interest in assigning cannabis testing to the state, as there is already testing facilities for agriculture products and generally speaking, private testing companies are not used for testing agricultural products.
Whether private or state, the MTCIA supports a system that works for Montana and has concerns about each of the models being discussed. We recognize, too, that these discussions are critical to creating a functional testing model for Montana.
It is important to note that in the draft legislation, the tracking system, the new volume management model, and mandatory testing would not go into effect until April 2018. A 2% tax on production (paid by providers) is in the draft legislation in order to pay for the tracking system and other program needs.
The legislation is likely to be available soon. It is very possible the legislation will undergo changes if it moves forward through the process.