Big Sky Roundup

Voters in three counties approve pot sales taxes; Billings rebuffs retail storefronts

By: - November 3, 2021 5:11 pm

Green Marijuana Cannabis (Photo by Lakia Hinson/Pixy, Creative Commons)

Voters in several local jurisdictions voiced on Election Day Tuesday how they’d like to see the state’s burgeoning recreational marijuana program implemented in their communities.

Park County, Yellowstone County and Missoula County all held elections on ballot measures to add a local-option excise tax of 3% to the retail sale of marijuana, either recreational or medicinal depending on the initiative. The city of Billings, meanwhile, voted 55% to 45% not to allow recreational marijuana storefronts within municipal limits, relegating dispensaries out to the county — which, as a whole, voted overwhelmingly for adding a local sales tax to both types of retail pot.

Missoulians approved an excise tax on recreational marijuana by a large margin, but appear set to vote down a measure to do the same for medical marijuana, at least according to the last round of election results from Tuesday night.  Voters in Park County approved a local sales tax on both medical and recreational marijuana products.

The Montana recreational marijuana market was born with the passage of voter initiative 190 in 2020. But the Legislature this year went another step, crafting and passing a mammoth implementation bill that allows for local control on how to zone things like retail storefronts and whether to impose a 3% local excise tax. The bill imposes a base sales tax of 20% on recreational pot and 4% on pot purchased by those with medical cards — so, for example, a Missoula resident purchasing marijuana for recreational use after 2022 would pay a 23% sales tax.

The following are the most recent election results for these measures. Tallies won’t be finalized until a canvas is completed.

Missoula County

  • Recreational sales tax: 30,249 for, 8,556 against
  • MMJ sales tax: 19,969 against, 18,752 for

Yellowstone County

  • To allow recreational marijuana storefronts in Billings city limits: 18,939 against, 15,606 for
  • Recreational sales tax: 38,835 for, 8,510 against
  • MMJ sales tax: 28,307 against, 19,276 for

Park County

  • Sales tax on both MMJ and recreational: 4,247 for, 1,539 against

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Arren Kimbel-Sannit
Arren Kimbel-Sannit

Arren Kimbel-Sannit is an Arizona-bred journalist who has covered politics, policy and power building at every level of government. Before getting his dose of northern exposure, Arren worked as a reporter in all manner of Arizona newsrooms, for the Dallas Morning News and for POLITICO in Washington, D.C. He has a special interest in how land-use decisions affect working-class people, which he displayed through reporting on the epidemic of pedestrian deaths in the U.S. for the Los Angeles Times and PBS Newshour. He's also covered housing, agriculture, the Trump presidency and more.