Huckleberry strain medical marijuana buds

A jar of huckleberry strain medical marijuana buds.

Montana took in $1.8 million in medical marijuana taxes over the first 13 months of collections.

The taxes came from a 4-percent tax on the gross revenue of providers, who since July 2017 have been paying the state's first tax on marijuana.

The tax figure, from the Montana Department of Revenue, also indicates a medical marijuana industry with about $45 million in total sales.

Collections in the 2018 fiscal year, which ran from July 1, 2017, to June 30, 2018, totaled $1.34 million.

Another $458,000 was paid in July 2018, but the revenue department recorded those funds as part of the 2019 fiscal year, because that's when the collections occurred, according to department spokesman Sanjay Talwani.

However, the July 2018 collections reflect sales from the fourth quarter of the 2018 fiscal year.

Montana legislators passed the medical marijuana tax as part of a regulatory reform in 2017. Sales were taxed at 4 percent during the first year to jump-start the program.

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Going forward, gross revenues will be taxed at 2 percent and stay at that rate for the foreseeable future. The taxes go toward funding the program and state oversight.

The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, which oversees the medical marijuana program, has been rolling out its new rules this year. They include programs for tracking cannabis and licensing for providers and patients.

Inspections also began of third-party laboratories, cultivation sites, marijuana-infused product providers, kitchens and dispensaries, a health department spokesman said.

The number of registered patients in the medical marijuana program started growing rapidly after the 2016 passage of Initiative 182, which removed some previous restrictions and set the stage for a revised program.

More than 1,000 people were signing up each month through much of 2017. That growth has slowed this year, and the number of medical marijuana cardholders actually dropped from May to June. Like providers, the cardholders are also transitioning into a new system.

The latest figures from the health department show 26,549 registered patients in the program and 420 providers.

Three testing labs have been licensed, and one additional lab license was pending in July. Dispensaries, where cardholders can purchase marijuana, also must be registered separately. There are 72 of those, state data show.

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