Untethering of MMP Providers: What Comes Next
May 20, 2020 | View PDF
The Department of Public Heath and Human Services has sent letters to all registered medical marijuana registered cardholders within the state of Montana. The letter, issued April 29, 2020, explains to cardholders that effective June 2 they will no longer be tethered to their current medical providers. This means that all registered cardholders will be able to purchase medical marijuana from ANY licensed provider within the state of Montana. On May 3, 2019 Senate Bill 265 was signed requiring all untethering to be completed prior to July 1, 2020.
Rick Whatman owns four dispensaries within the state of Montana including Sidney, Glendive, Plentywood, and Bozeman. Whatman believes that untethering is a move in the right direction however, he also believes that the MMP (medical marijuana program) has a potential of losing income due to licensed providers currently paying for many of their client’s medical cards. The positive to this, Whatman states, is that some providers offer and specialize in products that others do not offer. This allows the client the freedom to utilize products that may not have been available at the initial providers location.
Whatman advises that this business is a difficult one with expense, changes in law, and recent supply/demand issues. On April 1, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a letter was written by Gov. Steve Bullock to the registered card holders in Montana stating that because of the need to reduce travel and exposure, card holders were allowed to receive their monthly allowable amount of medical marijuana at one time within that month. The regulated allowance prior to the outbreak was one usable ounce per day up to five ounces per month. Because of this new directive, providers such as Whatman, find it difficult to be able to keep up with the need of his currently tethered cardholders. Montana licensed providers grow and produce everything that they sell, so there is a potential that patients may see a limited supply of product throughout the duration of the pandemic. As for the cost of the operation, Whatman shared that the testing of the medical marijuana prior to sale costs him $375 per test, when Colorado provides the same testing for $35. After the pandemic ceases, Whatman cannot predict what the state of Montana will do with the further changes to the law surrounding cannabis (production and sales). Whatman then goes on to say that the state of Montana needs the income from recreational sales, when the law passes. In 2018, High Times reported that Montana collected $1.8 million (June 2017–July 2018) in medical cannabis tax revenue in their first year, doubling the states’ expectations.