BILLINGS - New legislation being introduced this week suggests pushing back the start date that dispensaries can sell recreational marijuana.  It would also push back the date they could apply for a recreational license.

"I knew a lot of this was coming.  There's always going to be pushback, especially in our industry," Zach Schopp, founder of Seed of Life Labs in Billings said.

House Bill 457 is drawing attention in the marijuana industry.  If passed, it would set back the sale of recreational marijuana to January 2023, a year later than what Initiative 190 outlined.

"They basically just want to put us off for a year, and then we would start applying for licenses in late 2022, and then approved in 2023," Schopp said.

Schopp says he questions lawmakers will vote in favor of the idea.

"Legislators on both sides want to see these tax dollars rolling in, and wants to see the program off the ground, so I don't know how far it's going to make it," Schopp said.

The bill is sponsored by Representative Bill Mercer from Billings.

Mercer did not respond to our interview requests on this bill, but back in January, he proposed removing the $1.3 million budget request by the Department of Revenue, which was approved by the House Appropriations Committee Jan. 6. He said he wanted lawmakers to take an in-depth look at the costs of the recreational program.

"It wasn't a merits vote as much as it was to say, 'Wow, I didn't think we were really going to need to spend $1.37 million of general fund money to get the wheels on this process moving, and can we take more time to figure out what needs to be done,'" Mercer said.

If HB 457 becomes law, the additional tax revenue from recreational cannabis brought in by dispensaries would be pushed back too.

"That's lost tax revenue, loss of income and jobs that we bring to the table, and they're just putting it off," Schopp said.

The bill is scheduled to be heard in the House Business and Labor Committee on Friday, Feb. 26.


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