Turning 18 means being able to vote, buy a lottery ticket, and—now in Billings, Montana—own a cannabis dispensary.
The city council there on Monday night “brought its marijuana laws in line with state marijuana laws and lowered the age a person can work for or own a marijuana business from 21 to 18,” according to local television station KTVQ.
Montana’s recreational cannabis law permits adults aged 21 and older to possess and consume pot, but the statute also allows anyone 18 and older to own or work at a cannabis retailer.
The law also allows cities in Montana to set up their own age threshold, prompting Billings, the state’s most populous city, to establish 21 as the minimum age for cannabis businesses there under a new ordinance passed by the city council last year.
That didn’t sit well with Montana Advanced Caregivers (MAC), a dispensary in Billings that filed a lawsuit against the city late last month.
The suit, filed by MAC and three employees, alleged that the “ordinance regulating the sale of medical marijuana in Billings unlawfully restricts the age of those who work at the business,” according to KTVQ.
The plaintiffs sought “a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the ordinance and an order declaring the city ordinance invalid and unenforceable,” KTVQ reported, arguing that “the city ordinance is more restrictive than the state laws established to regulate medical marijuana sales which allow a person not ‘under 18 years of age’ to work for a licensed marijuana provider.”
The city ordinance made it “unlawful for the Employee Plaintiffs to work in MAC, or any other marijuana business within the jurisdiction of the City of Billings,” the plaintiffs said in the lawsuit, as quoted by KTVQ.
“As a result, the Employee Plaintiffs will be forced to lose their jobs, even though each of the Employee Plaintiffs meets all the requirements to be an employee in a medical marijuana business under the laws of the State of Montana,” the lawsuit said, according to the station.
On Monday, members of the Billings City Council essentially sided with the plaintiffs, voting 8-3 to lower the age to 18.
The change doesn’t sit well with everyone, with some, like Billings Mayor Bill Cole, noting an obvious discrepancy in the state law, which says that individuals under the age of 21 cannot enter the establishment.
“Even if we allow 18-year-olds, assuming they are in a marijuana business, there is still an issue, isn’t there? On whether to do so is a violation of state law. And that’s between the marijuana business owner and the state of Montana, not us,” Cole said, as quoted by KTVQ.
Montana continues to work out the kinks with its new recreational cannabis law. In March, the state Supreme Court approved temporary rules regarding the expungement protocol for individuals who were previously convicted of pot-related offenses.
As local news outlet KPAX explains, the new cannabis law in Montana “says anyone convicted of an offense that would now be legal in the state can petition to have their conviction removed from their record, get a lesser sentence for it or reclassify it to a lesser offense.”
In its approval, the court offered procedures for individuals to seek expungement.
Voters in Montana approved a measure ending prohibition on pot in 2020, and sales began there on New Year’s Day.
In the first weekend, the state generated more than $1.5 million in cannabis sales.
Earlier this month, the state reported that the new adult-use cannabis program had generated $8.7 million in tax revenue in the first three months of the program.
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