Recent changes to Montana’s medical cannabis program now allow less risks for smaller producers, stronger competition with larger companies and an increase in fee rates.
The new changes to the program have brought new costs to cannabis providers including higher licensing fees, cannabis lab testing fees and a cannabis tax. “The overhead is almost impossible, unless you’re a real big player in the industry,” said Roberts, Montana area cannabis provider William Reid. “Those people are going to survive it.”
Officials at the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services also agreed to reduce the square footage of cultivation space for patients to grow their own cannabis. This limitation is three times the maximum amount needed to cultivate, and some business owners are concerned about overproduction. The health department believes that the 30 square foot allotment is a “prudent canopy size,” and stated that “there’s a formula” to analyze how much cannabis will be produced to meet demand.
The original allotment per patient was up to 50 square feet, and with numerous comments about the size of the grow space, it is now reduced to 30 square feet. The tiered canopy system was also thrown out after concerns it would be too complicated to navigate. “Thirty square feet, while it may be better than 50 square feet, is an enormous allotment,” said Kate Cholewa, a lobbyist for the Montana Cannabis Industry Association. “The providers in our organization tend to need somewhere between three and 10 [square feet per patient].”
The Montana medical cannabis program served 26,500 people as of July of this year and had issued 420 provider licenses as of that same time. “What we’re afraid of is the larger growers who can afford that are going to grow in excess and have a surplus and drop the prices,” said cannabis provider Carlo Giaquinto, who stated that he only needed 14 percent of his allotted grow space.