Beaverhead County

Montana’s Thin Green Line

Montana’s Thin Green Line

After a long battle to legalize adult-use marijuana, January 1st was the first day dispensaries could open their doors to recreational users in Montana. As with any state in the fledgling phase of adult use, all eyes are on how the cannabis market performed in the first month. 

The first month saw the state finish January 2022 with $22.6 million – $12.9 million from recreational marijuana and $9.8 million from medical. Montana also made $2.9 million in taxes from all cannabis sales in January. If sales were to continue at this rate for the rest of the year, Montana would stand to make $34.8 million in taxes. Projections put this number slightly higher; The Motley Fool, an investment advice company, projects that after three years of a fully operational cannabis industry, Montana would pull in $35.1 million in excise tax annually.

Not everyone is getting a piece of the revenue pie, though. Not all counties voted to allow adult-use cannabis, splitting Montana into “green counties” and “red counties” – green, of course, where dispensaries can sell recreational cannabis. Twenty-eight counties are “green,” and the remaining 23 are “red,” with “green counties” containing more than 80% of the states’ population.

John Buhrman is the manager and a partner at The Higher Standard (a current medical dispensary), located in “red” Beaverhead County. Beaverhead County was the closest vote, with “No” winning by only 27 votes. Buhrman estimates that The Higher Standard could lose up to $1.2 million in yearly revenues if they cannot offer recreational marijuana. With the loss of that amount of money, he aptly described it as “quite a kick in the pants.” “Green counties” may also refer to the money coming in; three “green counties,” Missoula, Park, and Yellowstone, voted for an additional 3% tax on top of the 20% statewide tax. Counties can use this extra money; however, citizens and lawmakers see fit to improve their counties. Buhrman is planning to circulate a petition next year in Beaverhead County, which would go on the November 2022 local ballot. “We’ll work through it that way, and next year at this time, hopefully, we’ll have it here in Beaverhead County, and it’ll just fade into the past,” he said. He made it clear that while he does respect that counties allow the locals to choose, he believes when Montanans in “red counties” see the benefits, many will change their minds.

Dispensary owners like Burhman hope that when “red counties” see how tax revenue can benefit “green counties,” they will make the switch. Pro adult-use citizens are hoping money will be the driving incentive to turn more counties “green.” With the robust showing in January, it is not a bad aspiration to hang their hats on – or pack their bowls with.

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