Committee on Montana marijuana bills hears from Colorado drug investigator

Posted at 9:26 PM, Apr 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-16 13:12:47-04

HELENA — On Thursday, a drug investigator from Colorado advised Montana lawmakers to craft thorough and clear regulations for their future recreational marijuana program.

Ray Padilla is an officer with the Drug Enforcement Administration in Denver, and president of the Colorado Drug Investigators Association. He gave a presentation to the Montana Senate’s Select Committee on Marijuana Law, which is currently working on bills that would implement voter-approved marijuana legalization.

Padilla talked about some of the negative impacts Colorado saw after it legalized marijuana in 2014, including diversion of marijuana out of state and damage from large indoor grows. He said the state’s system has been improved over the last few years, but it took significant work.

“I think we are a good test case for what not to do initially, and then what to do afterwards,” he said. “What’s nice is, you’re on the front end of this thing and you are enacting rules and regulations to hopefully prevent a lot what we went through.”

Padilla encouraged the committee to make the language of their rules as clear as possible, so that they can be consistently enforced. He said Colorado’s laws sometimes say what a grower “should” do, rather than what they “shall” do.

The select committee was set up to handle all marijuana bills going through the Senate. This week, members tabled several smaller bills and one larger reform – House Bill 707, sponsored by Rep. Brad Tschida, R-Missoula. They are still working on two other large bills – House Bill 670, from Rep. Derek Skees, R-Kalispell, and House Bill 701, from Rep. Mike Hopkins, R-Missoula.

The committee’s chair, Sen. Jason Ellsworth, R-Hamilton, has said some aspects of all the bills they consider may be combined into a single bill expected to come out of committee next week.

Padilla said some of the provisions Montana has looked at could be positive, including the proposed sales tax rate of 20% to 25% – which he said was lower than many other states, and therefore less likely to drive marijuana buyers to the black market. However, he had concerns about allowing people to grow marijuana at home, saying home grows tend to be more disruptive to neighbors and that some of the product could end up in the black market.