Livingston dispensaries weigh in on new state tax
Samantha Hill
Yellowstone Newspapers

While hundreds of shops grow and sell medicinal marijuana, the state of Montana raked in the other green stuff this September — money.
According to the Department of Revenue, the state collected $380,000 in taxes from 315 medical cannabis dispensaries during the first quarter of the year.
This is the first quarter to collect taxes after the 2017 Montana Legislature approved Senate Bill 333, which allows the state to collect a 4 percent tax on sales this year followed by a reduction to a 2 percent tax starting next July. The law also lists several requirements for dispensaries such as seed-to-sale tracking and testing products.
Those working at two local dispensaries see the new laws moving the state in the right direction.
Rick Whatman, owner of Around the Clock Cannabis, located just east of Livingston, said he is 100 percent for the tax and wants to keep his business as transparent as possible.
“They were able to catch Capone, so I know they would catch me,” Whatman joked.
He believes the new bill also has created a way to reduce smaller, illegal growers and dispensaries across the state but acknowledges that more could be done, such as allowing medical pot businesses to have bank accounts, which is currently against the rules.
“If we were allowed to have bank accounts, yeah, that would really help crack down a lot on taxes,” Whatman said.
Gary Proffitt, store manager of High Country Buds, another Livingston dispensary, said his business serves 94 patients and generated about $28,000 in tax revenue this quarter.
People often seek out medical marijuana because of chronic pain and illnesses but are not covered under insurance. Consequently, Proffitt said his business has had to eat some of the costs of paying the taxes because it didn’t want to charge consumers more.
Although the taxes may be costly for the business, HCB plans to expand its three Montana locations to other areas in the state next year, so Proffitt doesn’t believe there are any negatives.
“We still need roads and bridges, so I would say it is a good thing,” he said.

Workers at both shops believe the Montana Legislature is setting the stage for recreational marijuana legalization in the coming years by establishing guidelines for taxing the industry.
Adam Ehlers, who owns the medicinal shop, Remedy, in Missoula, is also a big advocate for full legalization, working with organizations to put it in motion.
Ehlers said it is possible the Legislature is looking at tax structures based on other recreational states such as Washington and Colorado.
“We are in a crises and lawmakers are looking for things that will bring in tax revenue,” he said.
However, Ehlers said there isn’t a real push for recreational use for awhile. He sees legalization finalized by 2020.
“We are trying to get the information out there now,” he said. “We are hoping to have it on a ballot for a big election year, so there is more turnout.”
Montana House District 59 Rep. Alan Redfield said he voted against the bill when it went through the Legislature because it creates higher costs for consumers, and he feels it doesn’t address product testing well enough.
Redfield said he supports properly regulated medical marijuana but does not believe in full recreational use.
He said he doesn’t think the potential tax revenue is worth the possible crime and consequences to the work force.
“I am dead set against it,” Redfield said. “It’s a great cash cow, but it is not worth degrading people’s safety.”


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