Everything You Need to Know About Montana Marijuana

Buffalo Roaming in Montana
Photo by: Bill45/Shutterstock

Waking up each day in America can be kind of confusing. There’s the usual morning grogginess, of course (Thursdays frequently feel like Fridays to me until about 11am, when I’m brought sharply back into harsh reality), but it’s more than just that. People wake up and immediately check the news, wondering what new laws have been signed in the night or which world leaders have been fighting about whose button is bigger. It’s not uncommon to roll out of bed and question whether today’s America will be more regressive or progressive than yesterday’s.

The slow but steady (or is it?) progress of marijuana legalization is no exception. As one of many facets of current American life that is being called into question, the conversation around cannabis seems to be hitting highs and lows. While more and more states are legalizing medical and recreational weed, others are still holding back based on scare tactics and false statistics from the 1930s. Unfortunately, real and current scientific evidence seems to have very little sway in the conversation (which certainly speaks volumes about the lawmakers in charge).

Today we’re going to spotlight marijuana in the great state of Montana. With a population size of 1.04 million people, there are bound to be some cannabis enthusiasts spread across the Big Sky Country, and we bet we know what they’re asking.

Is Marijuana Legal in Montana?

As with many things in life, the answer here is complicated. According to NORML, medical marijuana is legal in the state of Montana for registered medical cardholders with certain conditions, plus any others approved by the legislature. A list of qualifying conditions can be found here.

Registered cardholders can possess up to an ounce of usable marijuana, and can grow it on private property (up to four mature plants and 12 seedlings).

Montana National park
Photo by: Tom Reichner/Shutterstock
Unfortunately, the good news ends there. For a first offense of a non-registered user being caught with 60 grams of pot or less, penalties include a maximum $500 fine, up to six months in prison, and a misdemeanor charge. Growing your own weed (even one plant) can get you in even more serious trouble: a felony charge, $50,000 maximum fee, and up to 10 years in the slammer. Add to that an intent to distribute (either selling it or giving it away) and you’re looking at a felony charge (yep, another one), an additional $50,000 maximum fine, and up to 20 years in prison. And of course, if you’re actually caught distributing any amount of the stuff (that’s one step beyond ‘intent’), you could spend your entire life behind bars. America, the beautiful!

How Can I Get a Medical Card?

Some people read through that entire list of terrifying list of first-time offense punishments and came out with the true silver lining of the Montana-shaped cloud: “So medical marijuana is legal in Maine!” Right you are, my lovely optimists!

In order to obtain a medical marijuana card in Montana, users must submit an application (by mail), complete with a physician statement verifying their condition, a mandatory application fee, and a copy of a Montana state-issued identification card. Not so bad, right? Applications are processed in the order they’re received and cards are sent right back through the mail. It’s important to note here that a user is not considered a valid cardholder until he or she physically possesses a Montana Marijuana Program card. These cards are valid for one year, unless a shorter time is specified by the physician on the application.

Where Are the Dispensaries?

Buffalo Roaming in Montana
Photo by: Bill45/Shutterstock
Oddly enough (and in my opinion, somewhat hilariously), “The department has no advice on obtaining marijuana” (thanks, guys… big help). Fortunately for you, Leafbuyer lets you search for dispensaries in your city or state. (This time I mean it: Thanks, guys! Big help!) Most of these dispensaries are located close to the I-90, making it easy for you to hop off, load up, and be on your merry way. Others are sprinkled throughout some of the national forests; do with that information what you will.

Can I Use My Medical Marijuana Products in Public?

I think it’s sweet that you’re even asking. Did you see how seriously they take this stuff? Talk about an overreaction on the part of the government! But since you asked, I’m obliged to answer with a big fat: Yes?

This one came as a shock to me. After seeing how strongly Montana’s lawmakers seem to hate marijuana, they’ve certainly made it easy for registered medical users to light up in public. The laws for this particular aspect have been shoddy and filled with loopholes since they were first drafted in 2004. Apparently, it is illegal for anyone (including medical marijuana card holders) to smoke marijuana in public places such as:

  • Public parks,
  • School grounds (this is ALWAYS a no-no and could get you into a lot of trouble),
  • Public beaches,
  • Youth centers (enter the vagueness),
  • Public recreation centers (this leaves quite a lot up to interpretation),
  • Correctional facilities (how would that ever NOT be the case?), and
  • Public transportation systems or school buses.

It was difficult to find completely current laws for toking in public, but for some fun hypothetical toying with Montana’s marijuana laws, check out this article from 2010. It gives an interesting (if somewhat dated) take on public cannabis use.