MONTANA - As we wait for a decision from Governor Greg Gianforte on the main recreational marijuana bill, lawmakers tried to make some last minute changes to the program through a different bill, which caused controversy as the session wrapped up.
As House Bill 701 is still en route to the governor's desk, Republican lawmakers tried to change HB 640 by adding language that would give money from marijuana tax revenue to a state trust fund.
However, that amendment was voted down.
"This is the prudent thing to do, the wise and mature thing to do, to actually set aside and look toward the future," Representative Matt Regier said.
The amendment was designed to use the interest from that state fund for drug abuse programs.
"A trust fund to have at least some dollars to mitigate the effects that we'll inevitably see with recreational marijuana," Rep. Regier said.
A big reason the amendment was voted down was because Democrats didn't like language in it that required medical marijuana users to get a referral from a "board certified pain physician."
"How many of those doctors exist in Montana? Are they in every county in the state? My understanding is there's only a handful," Senator Ellie Boldman from District 45 said.
Sen. Boldman argued that getting a medical marijuana card would become much harder because people would have limited options.
"If they don't live in Billings or Missoula you are going to make it so there's 30 thousand people that are justifiably unable to access a medical card," Sen. Boldman said.
As for HB 701, the governor's office says the bill is still in the enrolling process and has not yet made it to his desk.
This bill allows local governments to decide if they want a marijuana business to operate inside their borders.
It also has language to get rid of criminal convictions for marijuana offenses.
If Gov. Gianforte signs it, you can buy recreational marijuana starting January 1 of 2022.