MONTANA - More challenges arise in climb toward commercializing recreational marijuana as a new bill proposes limiting the amount of dispensaries in each county and puts more restrictions on the marijuana business.

"You could be on a different block, completely out of sight, but it'll still effect you," Zach Schopp, at Seed of Life Labs said.

Senate Bill 341 could bring many changes to the cannabis industry. If it becomes law, dispensaries would have to be 1,000 feet away from schools and churches. It would also only allow one dispensary per 10,000 people in each county.

"One per ten-thousand is going to force tons of people out of business.  Roughly 80 percent of businesses would have to close their doors," Schopp said.

It's an idea that a former Montana prosecutor thinks would make people go to the black market to get marijuana, instead of the legal market.  He testified on this during a Senate hearing on the bill.

"If you restrict the availability to one provider per ten thousand, you are simply going to drive people who want marijuana to the black market, or out of state," Attorney Josh Van de Wetering, from Missoula said.

The bill would also limit the amount of THC in marijuana products to 15%.

"Why would someone come to us and pay a 20 percent tax if there's a better product on the street?" Schopp said.

Supporters of the bill were very quick and straight forward with their defense.

"Section nine ensures marijuana stores can be adequately regulated. Section eight limits the amount of THC to 15 percent, and that should help limit drug abuse problems," Senator David Howard from District 29 said.

But the bill also creates employment regulations at dispensaries.

"Section six prohibits a person from obtaining a license to sell marijuana if they have a felony conviction. This would ensure organized crime, and others with a criminal background are not involved with the sale of marijuana," Howard said.

The bill had its first committee hearing last Friday. It is set to return in April.


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