An interim legislative committee on Thursday unanimously voted to reject industry rules proposed by the Department of Revenue’s new cannabis division, with plans to rework the proposal early next week.
The deadline to wrap up the department’s rules is quickly approaching, with legalization taking full effect Jan. 1 and marijuana providers gearing up for the state’s first recreational market.
But lawmakers on Thursday took issue with several of the rules proposed by the Cannabis Control Division, including labeling terminology and growing capacities for the tribes, each of which were afforded a single, license as part of the Legislature’s legalization framework bill passed earlier this year. The department develops rules to essentially fill in the gaps left in legislation, although lawmakers said Thursday the rules were running afoul of their intent when they wrote the bill.
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“The one thing we are charged with, being the Legislature, is we do the policy,” Sen. Jason Ellsworth, R-Hamilton, said. “The Department of Revenue doesn’t do policy.”
The committee has called back several rules already this year, although the department has said it’s only following the law as lawmakers wrote it. In House Bill 701, the legalization framework bill, lawmakers prohibited cannabis providers from selling hemp. The revenue department then, told providers they would not be able to sell CBD, a derivative of hemp. The Economic Affairs Interim Committee in November asked the Cannabis Control Division to fix the issue, again arguing it went against their intent.
Sen. Shane Morigeau, D-Missoula, took issue Thursday with the department’s interpretation of the law — which stated tribes would be allowed one tier 1 license, the smallest capacity license to grow cannabis. The department’s proposed rule would not allow tribes to scale up their operation and apply for a higher tiered license.
“Our intent throughout the process has always been that it be fair and equitable, that these entities, these tribes can tier up through that system,” Morigeau said.
Jameson Walker, the committee’s staff attorney, said his reading of the provision did not specifically allow tribes a license higher than tier 1, but it did not necessarily prevent it, either.
“It’s in the gray area,” he said.
A spokesperson for the Department of Revenue said Thursday no tribe has applied for a license.
Ellsworth made the motion that threw the brakes on the department’s rules until Monday, when the department will meet with the committee again at 2 p.m. to retool the proposals. Kristan Barbour, the Cannabis Control Division administrator, said during the meeting they remain willing to work with the committee.
“We look forward to having these discussions in the coming days,” Barbour said.