Attempt to delay recreational pot rollout gets tabled in committee


    David Burr demonstrates removing leaves on marijuana plants to allow more light for growth at Essence Vegas' 54,000-square-foot marijuana cultivation facility on July 6, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

    A bill that would have delayed the rollout of recreational marijuana in Montana by one year failed to pass out of committee Friday morning.

    The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Bill Mercer, R-Billings, introduced House Bill 457 to the House Business and Labor Committee Friday. In November voters passed Initiative 190 that would allow for the sale of recreational marijuana starting Jan. 2022.

    Citing ongoing an ongoing lawsuit that alleges I-190 illegally allowed voters to appropriate state money, Mercer said it would a costly waste of resources to begin to implement the initiative if there is a chance the court will strike it down.

    “We need to get it resolved. And I don’t think that a delay of a year is a problem, given that there is a plainly, a constitutional question,” he said.

    Pepper Petersen, president of the Montana Cannabis Guild testified that because the sections of the bill are severable the lawsuit will fail and shouldn’t be grounds to delay the rollout of I-190.

    Proponents of the bill like Steve Zabawa of Safe Montana have been vocal opponents of I-190 and because of that Peterson said, “This is not a delay attempt. This is a repeal attempt.”

    Mercer said he voted no on the initiative, but denied the bill is a repeal attempt.