Montana lawmakers have rejected a request from the state’s Department of Revenue for money to fund the the voter-approved marijuana legalization program, a move that threatens to delay the launch of legal cannabis sales and slow the inflow of tax revenue to state coffers. Meanwhile, the governor is proposing to shift eventual tax revenue from sales to programs that are different than the ones spelled out in the initiative that voters approved in November.
The ballot measure passed by a roughly 57–43 percent margin. Under its provisions, the state officials are supposed to begin accepting marijuana business license applications by January 2022, with the first licensed sales expected to begin later that year or in early 2023.
To oversee the state’s marijuana licensing and regulatory system, Department of Revenue officials had requested $1.35 million, which, according to a January 5 memo from the department, would pay to hire 20 staffers and cover administrative costs, such as office space and equipment.
On Wednesday, however, the House Appropriations Committee denied that request, voting 23–2 to adopt an amendment that eliminates the program funding, which had been included in a House spending bill introduced last month.
Meanwhile, the provisions of the ballot measure to legalize personal marijuana possession and home cultivation took effect on January 1.
Bill Mercer (R), a former U.S. attorney, introduced the amendment to gut the regulatory funding, criticizing the state’s request “a huge tranche of money.”
“I think the challenge for us is there are a number of different ideas people are beginning to think through in terms of how we need to take what the voter approved and decide how that’s actually going to work in terms of public policy,” Mercer said, according to The Missoulian.
Kurt Alme, budget director for newly elected Gov. Greg Gianforte (R), reportedly said