Voters in Montana approved recreational marijuana in 2020. Fans of cannabis celebrated the victory, as Montana joins 18 states that have legalized (or have enacted legislation for legalization). 36 states permit cannabis for medicinal use (source NCLS.org). On January 1, 2021 all adult Montanans were allowed to legally use and possess reasonable amounts of marijuana for personal use. The conundrum is that the infrastructure and rules regarding the sale of cannabis won't be in place until January 2022.

You can currently use it and have it (and grow two plants at home), but you can't legally buy it at a shop in Billings. Confusing, right?

Photo by Michael Foth, Townsquare Media

Communities around the state are now trying to figure it all out.

The State legislators went round and round on tweaking the final rollout of the recreational marijuana laws in Montana, eventually leaving a loophole for local counties and cities to ultimately decide if weed shops will be permitted in their communities. For example, the folks in Gallatin County might say yes, but Carbon County could choose to say no.

OPINION: This hodgepodge, checkerboard style of rule making seems confusing, especially to tourists (who will likely be the biggest customers), and reminds me of certain Midwest states that still have "dry" counties. I mean, imagine if Billings decided to ban liquor stores? 

But wait... there's more.

As the recently deceased, TV gadget-king liked to say, "wait, there's more!" Adding to the confusion, even if a Montana county allows marijuana, individual cities in each county can still decide yay or nay to marijuana shops. Billings City Councilwoman Penny Ronning shared in a post on social media today (8/3) that Yellowstone County Commissioners voted - and failed to pass - an option to repeal legalizing the sale of recreational marijuana on the November ballot. It appears that Yellowstone County is leaving it up to the City of Billings.

Photo by Michael Foth, Townsquare Media

Here's what happens next for recreational marijuana in Billings.

The city council is moving forward regarding the regulation of both recreational marijuana and medicinal dispensaries within city limits. The next step will be deciding if they will put the question back to voters on the November ballot to repeal recreational-use marijuana in Billings.  If you would like to offer your input, please email the city council at council@billingsmt.gov. Cannabis is also on the agenda for the next city council meeting on August 9th. If you have strong opinions on the topic, please attend.

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