Growing Marijuana in Montana – MT Cannabis State Laws (2021)

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Montana has been a bit uptight about weed since 1927, which isn’t really a surprise since it is in a neighborhood of states not known for being weed-friendly. But in the most recent election season, Montanans sent a strong rebuff to the federal government and other state lawmakers who have worked to block marijuana legalization in their state.

On November 3, 2020, Montanans voted to legalize recreational marijuana with two initiatives. Initiative 118 and 190. I-190 legalizes possession, purchase, consumption, and licensed commercial production of recreational marijuana while I-118 sets the legal age for possessing, purchasing, and consuming marijuana. The first provisions of the measures that allow people 21 and older to possess and use up to one ounce of marijuana or eight grams of marijuana concentrates, as well as grow up to four marijuana plants inside a private residence, with the property owner’s permission, are already in effect.

This article was reviewed and updated for 2021.

Overview of Cannabis Growing Laws in Montana

Montana’s medical marijuana growing limits are relatively higher than those in other states that legalized recreational marijuana much earlier. The law says that:

  • Patients may grow 4 mature plants and 4 seedlings.
  • Adults aged 21 and up may grow up to 4 plants for recreational use.

Montana’s marijuana laws also allow a maximum of 8 mature plants and 8 seedlings if there are two or more cardholders in a given residence. 

Punishments for Violating Montana Home Grow Laws

Penalties for simple possession in Montana have now been reduced after the two legalization initiatives were approved in November 2020. Carrying up to 1 oz of bud is now allowed but anything above that is still prohibited.

  • Possession for personal use – It is a civil infraction to possess more than an ounce up to 2 oz. Anything more is already considered a felony.
    • More than an ounce to two – A fine of up to $200
    • Second offense – up to $300
    • More than 2 oz on the second offense – A sentence of up to 5 years and a maximum fine of $50,000.
    • More than 2 oz with the intent to distribute – 20 years and up to $50,000 fine.
  • Sale/Delivery – Selling marijuana is automatically a felony.
    • Selling to a minor – A mandatory minimum sentence of 2 years and a maximum fine of $50,000.
    • Within 1000 feet of school grounds – A mandatory minimum sentence of 3 years to life imprisonment and a maximum fine of $50,000.
  • Cultivation – Subsequent offenses are punishable by twice the prison term and twice the fine and any amount greater than the legal limit is already a felony.
    • More than 4 plants up to 1 lb or 30 plants – Up to 10 years and a maximum fine of $50,000.
    • More than 1 lb or more than 30 plants – 2 years to life imprisonment and a maximum fine of $50,000.

Since it will take time before dispensaries are allowed to sell to recreational customers, so why not just buy seeds online?

History of marijuana in Montana

Sebastian Bergmann from Siegburg, Germany / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)

When looking into Montana’s history with weed, the case of the Kurth family of Fort Benton is sure to come up. Financial troubles forced the Kurths to turn to marijuana farming. The family profited from it but got harassed by drug traffickers when they tried to back off from growing. The Kurth couple got attacked and their plants stolen by the traffickers. On top of this, they also got prosecuted in which they were told that they owed the Montana Department of Revenue taxes from the sales of their marijuana. However, the Supreme Court concluded that the state’s 1987 Dangerous Drug Tax Act was a punitive tax rather than normal revenue generation and it would be unconstitutional double jeopardy for the Kurths to be taxed after they had already been punished for the drug charges.  

Montana Medical Marijuana Allowance Initiative

However, this didn’t seem to move the needle much in terms of legalization. Laws went unchanged until 2004 when the Montana Medical Marijuana Allowance Initiative or I-148 was approved. The measure allowed registered patients with certain debilitating medical conditions to possess, use, and cultivate marijuana. However, resistance against cannabis was noticeably strong in the state. In 2011, both houses of the Montana Legislature passed House Bill 161 which sought to repeal I-148 but was vetoed by the state’s 23rd governor. However, the Legislature immediately tried to place more restrictions on the medical cannabis program, some of which were blocked by state District Judge James Reynolds. 

I-182

Around 2015, three proposals were submitted for the November 2016 ballot. One, the I-182, sought to increase the quantities and recipients for medical marijuana and include PTSD as a qualifying condition. Another pushed for the legalization of recreational marijuana while the last sought to require Montana to follow the federal government’s drug policy and in effect, shut down the state’s medical marijuana program. Thankfully enough,  it was I-182 that got approved in 2016.

SB 333 & 265

A year after that, Governor Steve Bullock signs SB333 which added mandatory testing and seed to sale tracking to Montana’s medical marijuana program. The senate bill also imposed a 4% tax on medical marijuana from July 1, 2017 which was decreased to 2% beginning on July 1, 2018. In 2019, this was reverted to 4% through SB 265 which also introduced “untethering” patients from providers.

Legalization of recreational marijuana

Finally in 2020, pro-marijuana group New Approach Montana proposed two initiatives, I-118 and I-192, that would allow residents of legal age to use, possess, and cultivate recreational marijuana. The group was able to submit 130,000 signatures to secure the initiatives for the November ballot that year.

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Growing medical marijuana in Montana

Patients and their caregivers who wish to grow medical cannabis must register under the Montana Medical Marijuana Program. Patients must have a qualifying condition to be able to register. Meanwhile, caregivers merely need to be 18 and older. 

Here are the documentary requirements that a new applicant needs to secure to apply:

Minor applicants need to submit the following: 

Under SB 423, the term “caregiver” is the same as “provider” and those who wish to apply for a license also need to provide the following: 

Patients and caregivers/providers can submit their applications online via the program’s Complia web portal. A medical marijuana card only costs $30. Meanwhile, providers need to pay fees based on how big their canopy is with a minimum being $500. SB 333 and administrative rules allow a provider to have one canopy space per cardholder, with a canopy space measuring up to 30 square feet. 

Marijuana home cultivation laws outside of Montana

How does Montana’s marijuana laws compare with home growing laws in other US states? Check out our post on Marijuana Growing Laws in the United States.

FAQs about growing marijuana in Montana

Is it legal to grow marijuana in Montana for recreational purposes?

Yes, it is now legal to grow recreational cannabis at home in Montana after two initiatives, I 118 and 190 got approved in 2020.

How much marijuana can I grow in Montana for recreational purposes?

Adults aged 21 and older may now grow up to 4 plants for personal recreational purposes.

Is it legal to grow marijuana in Montana for medical purposes?

Yes, patients and “providers” may grow medical marijuana at home in Montana.

How much marijuana can I grow in Montana for medical purposes?

Patients may grow up to 4 mature plants and 4 seedlings at home.

Where can I grow marijuana in Montana?

On your property, in a locked space where your plants can be kept away from public view.

How old do I need to be to grow marijuana in Montana?

Patients and caregivers/providers have to be at least 18 to legally grow medical marijuana and adults at least 21 for recreational purposes at home in Montana.

Conclusion

Montana’s vote represents another significant step forward for marijuana legalization in the region and the whole of the US. Although sales are likely to be delayed until October at the earliest since state lawmakers recently rejected a request from the state’s Department of Revenue for money to fund the cannabis legalization program, at least residents are already allowed to possess and grow their own without fear of the law.

Thinking About Growing Your Own?

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