Montana has not permitted the recreational use of cannabis since 1929. For decades, the state also banned medical marijuana. That changed when a ballot initiative (Measure I-148) legalized MMJ in 2004. The Montana Medical Marijuana Act (MMA) of that year has changed several times since its introduction into law.
In 2011, House Bill 161 tried to repeal I-148 after both houses of the state’s legislature passed the law. However, Governor Brian Schweitzer intervened by vetoing the bill and saving Montana’s MMJ program. The reason for the attempt to eliminate the program was due to the enormous rise in MMJ cardholders in the state.
In 2009, there were just 2,000, but that number swelled to 31,000 within two years. After the veto, the Legislature placed significant restrictions on the program. District Judge James Reynolds blocked many of them. However, there were enough to reduce the number of MMJ cardholders to 9,000 by 2014.
It is now less straightforward to get your MMJ card in Montana. Don’t worry; we will show you how to navigate the process in this guide.
The Definitive Guide on How to Get a Medical Marijuana Card in Montana
Before we begin, make sure you satisfy the following criteria:
- You are a resident in the state of Montana.
- You are at least 18 years of age. If you are a minor, you will need to complete a separate form.
- You were diagnosed with a debilitating qualifying medical condition or have chronic pain.
Step 1 – Schedule an Appointment with a Physician
The first thing you need is a recommendation signed by a doctor. You can get the forms signed by any physician. However, most patients visit a clinic that specializes in cannabis certification.
It is up to you to research the requisite clinics to find out the hours they devote to certification.
For example, The Cannabis Clinic Montana schedules its marijuana clinics every Tuesday, and most Thursdays from 11 am to 4 pm, at its office in Bozeman. It also has events planned in its other Montana locations during the week.
When you contact a clinic, it will let you know the medical records you must provide when you attend. If you need your records transferred, we recommend doing so a couple of weeks in advance.
Step 2 – Discuss Your Medical Condition with the Physician
In Montana, there are three separate Physician’s Statement options:
- Debilitation Condition if you need marijuana due to a debilitating medical condition (more on this below).
- A Physician’s Statement if you have chronic pain. With this application, you also need proof supporting the diagnosis of chronic pain. This may include MRI scans or X-rays. If physicians don’t find the cause of the chronic pain, you need a second physician’s statement confirming the diagnosis of chronic pain.
- A statement to allow minors to use medical marijuana. Once again, you need two physician’s statements to apply.
Once the physician has completed the assessment, he will decide if you are eligible for an MMJ card. If you are, you will receive a ‘packet.’ It contains the doctor’s recommendation and other paperwork that your provider needs to complete.
Step 3 – Decide if You Want to Receive Marijuana from a Licensed Provider, or Grow Your Own
Before you complete the application form, Montana residents have a decision to make. They must determine if they wish to get their weed from a provider or whether they want to grow their own. If you want to cultivate cannabis, you have to indicate as such on the cardholder application form. This involves including the physical address where the marijuana is grown.
If you are leasing or renting a property, you need the written permission of the landlord. That process involves completing a separate form.
Registered cardholders who have not named a provider can grow up to four mature plants and four seedlings.
Your second option is to receive your marijuana from a provider. This is a different section on the cardholder form. You don’t receive any advice from the Program when it comes to choosing a provider. Therefore, it is your responsibility to research reputable and legal dispensaries in your area. If you choose this option, you are allowed possession of up to one ounce of usable marijuana.
Please note that you must choose one or the other. You can’t name a provider and elect to grow your own.
Step 4 – Complete the Montana Medical Marijuana Program Application Form & Send It
You can access the application form from the Montana Department of Public Health & Human Services (DPHHS). Make sure you include the required documentation as requested on the form. You must also include a photocopy of a Montana state-issued ID or driver’s license. Pay the fee, send the application to the DPHHS office in Helena, and wait!
The official state website does not provide an application timeline. It says that it processes all applications in order of date received. Your waiting time depends entirely on the number of applications received at that time. This is frustrating because you can’t legally use weed in Montana until you have the card in your possession. If you want to speed up the process, pay by credit card or ACH.
Officially, the state is required to process your paperwork within 30 days.
Your payment is processed immediately, so don’t get overly excited when the money clears! Once you are approved, the DPHHS will send out two copies. You receive one while your provider receives the other.
You can legally make your purchase or grow your weed as soon as your card arrives in the mail. Make sure you keep your MMJ card on your person at all times, especially when in possession of marijuana! Even if your provider knows you, you will not receive your weed unless you show your card each time.
What Are the Qualifying Conditions Required to Get a Medical Marijuana Card in Montana?
If you are looking to receive an MMJ card for a debilitating condition, please note the following qualifying conditions:
- Cachexia or Wasting Syndrome
- Vomiting or Intractable Nausea
- Epilepsy or an Intractable Seizure Disorder
- Crohn’s Disease
- Admittance into hospice care
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy
- A CNS disorder that results in muscle spasms or painful/chronic spasticity
If applying to get relief from chronic pain, you must prove it is persistent and so severe that it interferes with daily activities.
What Are the Montana Medical Cannabis Card Costs?
In 2016, the state reduced the application fee from $75 to just $5. This fee also applies to renewals. However, you must also pay $30 for a registered cardholder card and $30 for a replacement card. It is an extra $10 to update provider information.
As for the cost of a physician’s visit, that depends on the clinic. It tends to range between $125 and $200, with an average fee of approximately $150.
Other Important Information on the Montana Medical Marijuana License Process
Your Montana MMJ card is valid for 12 months. We recommend beginning the renewal process 45 days before the expiry date. Depending on the provider, you could get lucky and find one that pre-screens you before you apply to ensure eligibility. Here are a few other things to note:
- The possession limit is one ounce of flower. You can also have eight grams of concentrate, or 800mg of THC in edibles, or 8ml worth of vape cartridges.
- Montana does not have a reciprocity program with any other state at present.
- Minors can apply by completing a different form. The minor’s parent or guardian must also register and receive approval as a Marijuana-Infused Products Provider (MIPP). Alternatively, this adult can name a provider on the minor’s behalf.
- If convicted of DUI during the period your MMJ card is valid, and your driver’s license is revoked, you must also surrender your card. You must complete the DUI revocation period before you can have your card reissued.
- Individuals under the supervision of the Department of Corrections (or a youth court if a minor) are not eligible to receive an MMJ card in Montana.
- For a list of qualified providers, please click on the link to visit the official Montana.gov state website. The site also helps you learn more about the Montana MMJ card program.
- The Montana DHHS recently posted a new set of rules. The plan is to overhaul the MMJ system. Possible changes include the introduction of a licensing structure based on a provider’s growing space. The department may also change the existing fee structure. SB265 proposes allowing MMJ patients to buy an ounce a day. The monthly limit is five ounces in this case. The state’s regulators may take action after submitting the proposal to public comments in 2020.