A controversial bill that would have stopped selling cannabis to adults in the state was put on hold by a Senate committee. The bill also had a part that would raise the tax on medical marijuana from 4% to 20%.
The Senate Business, Labor, and Economic Affairs Committee voted 6-4 to put the bill on hold. Senate President Jason Ellsworth, Committee Chair Jason Small, and Sen. Walt Sales, who are all Republicans, joined all three Democrats in voting against the bill. In the end, the bill was put on the table unanimously by the committee.
In 2020, 57% of voters said yes to legalizing cannabis, while 43% said no. During the panel discussion, Democratic state Sen. Willis Curdy said that he was worried about going against what the people wanted.
The bill’s sponsor, State Sen. Keith Regier (R), said that “there have been several examples of the will of the voters being reversed.” However, the report says that two of the three examples he gave were of ballot initiatives that were taken over by the courts, not by lawmakers.
The text of the bill says that the goal of the measure is to “reduce the demand for marijuana sales” in Montana. Since sales of cannabis for adults began in January 2022, the state has made $54 million in tax money. Less than one-tenth of that money came from taxes on medical cannabis. The state taxes sales of cannabis for adults at a rate of 20%, and some counties add an extra 3% tax.