Lawmakers in Montana have rejected a $1.35 million request from the state Department of Revenue for implementation of the recreational cannabis program approved by voters in November, the Independent Record reports.
The budget request asked the House Appropriations Committee for about $576,000 for 20 full-time positions, $250,000 for a “cash control room” – a secured room required as cannabusinesses must still rely mostly on cash – $112,000 for operating expenses, and $60,000 for other associated costs. The ask also includes cash requests for office supplies, vehicles, and other costs associated with building out a new office and government agency.
Rep. Bill Mercer (R), who pushed to pull the funding amendment which was approved by the committee 23-2, said that the voter guide on the legalization measure issued before the election didn’t say anything about “expanding state government.”
“I think the challenge for us is there are a number of different ideas people are beginning to think through in terms of how we need to take what the voters approved and decide how that’s actually going to work in terms of public policy.” – Mercer, during the committee meeting, via the Record
Kurt Alme, the governor’s budget director, said the $1.35 million is a “needed” expense for the agency to make the deadlines required under the voter-approved law. Mercer said lawmakers could delay that date.
Revenue Department Spokesman Sanjay Talwani said the agency is “committed to implementing the laws that are passed by the Legislature” but funding is “needed to support the initiative.”
Montanans approved the two ballot initiatives to legalize cannabis in the state by a 58% to 42% margin.