Cannabis Control Division Legislative Changes Summary for 2023

May 22, 2023

Are you curious if any new or amended laws were passed during Montana’s 2023 legislative session that will affect cannabis regulation?

Four bills were passed that included both regulatory additions and clarifying details and language related to licensing, deadlines, fees, moratoriums, and synthetic cannabinoids.

The following summary is a high-level overview only and is not an all-inclusive list of the laws. All legislative changes will be available at MCA: Marijuana Regulation and Taxation  once the bills are made law.

Read on for a summary of the changes and additions for each bill.

HB 128: Generally revise marijuana laws

HB 128 provided for the following changes and their effective dates:

Effective upon Passage and Approval
  • A list of all controlling beneficial owners for each licensee will be provided upon an Economic Affairs Interim Committee (EAIC) request (Section 8. 16-12-110(5) and Section 16-12-203 (1)(h)).
  • The economic affairs interim committee shall monitor the total square footage of canopy licensed in the state and the percentage of that total canopy in production (Section 8. 16-12-110 (1)(b)(i)(ii)).
  • The economic affairs interim committee shall monitor laboratory testing procedures performed by the department in accordance with the bill (Section 8. 16-12-110 (g)).
  • The department shall periodically report to the economic affairs interim committee the number of physicians who are providing written certification for registered cardholders and the number of written certifications each physician has provided (Section 8. 16-12-110 (3)(viii)).
  • The moratorium for new applications is extended to 6/30/25. The department will begin accepting new applications on or after 7/1/25 (Section 11. 16-12-201 (1)(a) and Section 16-12-201 (1)(b)).
  • Clarifying language was added regarding combined cultivation and dispensary facilities, to now read: “Combined use consists of one canopy license and one dispensary license allowing for the operation of a dispensary. Cultivation and dispensary facilities do not have to be located at the same licensed premises” (Section 21. 16-12-225 (2)).
  • A combined-use license does not have to be located within 150 air miles of the exterior boundary of the associated tribal reservation or, for the Little Shell Chippewa tribe only, within 150 air miles of the tribal service area (Section 21. 16-12-225).
  • Concentrates intended for smoking or vaping must be 800 milligrams of THC or less to sell to adult-use consumers (Section 3 16-12-102(24)).
Effective 7/1/2023
  • The State Laboratory’s duties are now assigned to the department. The CCD will be responsible for endorsing a new testing laboratory before the testing laboratory may apply for licensure or renewal (Section 12. 16-12-202).
Effective 10/1/2023
  • A list of the names of controlling beneficial owners for each licensee will now be available on department’s website (Section 4. 16-12-104. (10)(a)).
  • License suspension time periods are increased from the previous guideline of ‘up to 3 months’ to ‘up to 12 months’ (Section 7. 16-12-109 (1)(c)).
  • Complaint copies delivered to the licensee may be anonymous (Section 9. 16-12-125 (3)).
  • Marijuana business employees do not have to undergo a criminal background check prior to beginning employment (Section 10. 16-12-129).
  • The department shall obtain fingerprints from a person designated by the applicant as responsible for operating the licensed establishment on behalf of the licensee (Section 10. 16-12-129 (2)(f)).
  • The dispensary hemp sales prohibition now includes selling hemp flower or plants (Section 16. 16-12-208 (7)).
  • Marijuana permit workers shall notify their employer (rather than the department) in writing within 10 days of: a felony conviction; any citation issued for violating marijuana laws; or any citation issued for selling or dispensing alcohol or tobacco products to a minor (Section 22. 16-12-226 (7)).
  • Minors will use only marijuana products intended for use by a means other than smoking and will not smoke marijuana (Section 27. 16-12-508 (2)(b)(iii)(c)).  Cardholders ages 18-20 may purchase smokable marijuana with a valid Montana medical card.

HB 948: Revise marijuana laws regarding synthetic marijuana products

HB 948 provided for the following changes and their effective dates:

Effective upon Passage and Approval
  • The department may inspect any business to investigate unlawful activity related to synthetic marijuana products (New Section. Section 2).
  • If an investigation results in reasonable cause to believe that a violation related to synthetic marijuana products occurred, the investigating agency may issue a cease-and-desist order to be served pursuant to Rule 4, M.R.Civ.P (New Section. Section 2).
  • For synthetic marijuana product violations, an investigating agency may assess a penalty of no more than $1,000 per day. Fifty percent of this penalty must be deposited into the Healing and Ending Addiction through Recovery and Treatment account, while the remainder must be deposited in the marijuana state special revenue account (New Section 2).
  • The department will establish a synthetic marijuana products advisory council. This advisory committee will compile their findings to make recommendations in a report to economic affairs interim committee (New Section. Section 3).
  • The department will provide public information regarding complaints about violations of section 1(3) including information regarding types of businesses or products being reported and disciplinary action taken (Section 7. 16-12-125 (5)(a)(b)).
  • The department’s reports to the legislature regarding synthetic marijuana violations must include the number of investigations and complaints referred to law enforcement by the department and the disposition of such complaints (Section 7. 16-12-125 (6)).
  • Synthetic cannabinoids are now specifically added to the list of items prohibited for sale at licensed dispensaries (Section 8. 16-12-208 (7)).

HB 229: Generally revise marijuana laws related to testing laboratories

HB 229 provided for the following changes and their effective dates:

Effective 10/1/2023
  • The department will establish a new probationary testing laboratory license. The probationary license may be issued if:
    • The applicant has completed the International Organization for Standardization accreditor initial assessment, and
    • There are no pending corrective actions to obtain IOS.
The probationary license is valid for 180 days and may be renewed one time if the application is denied after good faith effort or if application remains pending IOS accreditation.
If the applicant voluntarily closes the application process after receiving a probationary license, the applicant may not receive a second probationary license for 2 years (Section 1. 16-12-104 (8)).
  • All samples of marijuana and marijuana products submitted by cultivator and manufacturers must be collected by a testing lab employee. A commercial testing lab may not use a third-party marijuana transporter for samples submitted under subsections (5)(a) and (5)(b) (Section 2. 16-12-206 (6)).
  • Testing laboratories are permitted a deviation of 10% above or below the allowed amount for a marijuana product sold as an edible or a food product, for no more than 100 milligrams of THC. A single serving of an edible marijuana product may not exceed 10 milligrams of THC (Section 3. 16-12-224 (8)(c)).

HB 903: Generally revise marijuana laws

HB 903 provided for the following changes and their effective dates:

Effective upon Passage and Approval:
  • The definition of Former Medical Marijuana licensee has changed to include being licensed by or having an application for licensure pending with DPHHS to 4/27/21. This date would determine the ability to enter the adult use market (Section 2. 16-12-201)
  • A cultivator may not increase its licensure level by more than one tier at a time, up to tier 5 canopy license, without meeting requirements of subsections (1)(e)(A) and (1)(e)(B). A cultivator under a combined-use license may increase its licensure level by more than one tier at a time, up to a tier 5 canopy license, without meeting the requirements of subsections (1)(e)(i)(A) and (1)(e)(i)(B) (Section 4. 16-12-223 (1)(C)(iii)).
  • The dispensary license fee is changed to $5,000 for first location, increasing cumulatively by $5,000 for each additional location under the same license (Section 5. 16-12-224. (6)(b)).
  • The initial licensure and annual fees for a combined-use license is $7,500 (Section 6. 16-12-225 (3)).
  • The department shall provide the board of medical examiners with the name of any physician who provides a written certification for 39 or more patients within any given calendar year (Section 7. 16-12-509 (6)).
Effective 1/1/2024:
  • Department shall deny any cultivator, manufacturer, or dispensary license if the proposed licensed premises is within 500 feet of a child-care facility licensed or registered by DPHHS. This provision applies to new license applications submitted on or after effective date of this section (Section 3. 16-12-207 (3)(a)(iii)).

HB 519: Authorize digital drivers licenses through a mobile application

HB 519 provided for the following change and its effective date:

Effective 10/1/2023:
  • By 9/1/25, the Department of Justice shall establish a program that allows every qualifying applicant for a driver’s license the option to acquire a digital version in addition to the physical version. This may impact application attachment types when license applicants provide a copy of their driver’s license (Section 2. 16-14-201 (23)).