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Billings, Montana Lowers Minimum Age to Work at Weed Shops

Turning 18 means being able to vote, buy a lottery ticket, and—now in Billings, Montana—own a cannabis dispensary.

The city council there on Monday night “brought its marijuana laws in line with state marijuana laws and lowered the age a person can work for or own a marijuana business from 21 to 18,” according to local television station KTVQ.

Montana’s recreational cannabis law permits adults aged 21 and older to possess and consume pot, but the statute also allows anyone 18 and older to own or work at a cannabis retailer.

The law also allows cities in Montana to set up their own age threshold, prompting Billings, the state’s most populous city, to establish 21 as the minimum age for cannabis businesses there under a new ordinance passed by the city council last year.

That didn’t sit well with Montana Advanced Caregivers (MAC), a dispensary in Billings that filed a lawsuit against the city late last month.

The suit, filed by MAC and three employees, alleged that the “ordinance regulating the sale of medical marijuana in Billings unlawfully restricts the age of those who work at the business,” according to KTVQ.

The plaintiffs sought “a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the ordinance and an order declaring the city ordinance invalid and unenforceable,” KTVQ reported, arguing that “the city ordinance is more restrictive than the state laws established to regulate medical marijuana sales which allow a person not ‘under 18 years of age’ to work for a licensed marijuana provider.”

The city ordinance made it “unlawful for the Employee Plaintiffs to work in MAC, or any other marijuana business within the jurisdiction of the City of Billings,” the plaintiffs said in the lawsuit, as quoted by KTVQ.

“As a result, the Employee Plaintiffs will be forced to lose their jobs, even though each of the Employee Plaintiffs meets all the requirements to be an employee in a medical marijuana business under the laws of the State of Montana,” the lawsuit said, according to the station.

Members of Billings City Council supported plaintiffs on Monday. They voted 8-3 to reduce the age to 18

The change doesn’t sit well with everyone, with some, like Billings Mayor Bill Cole, noting an obvious discrepancy in the state law, which says that individuals under the age of 21 cannot enter the establishment.

“Even if we allow 18-year-olds, assuming they are in a marijuana business, there is still an issue, isn’t there? It is against state law to decide whether or not it should be allowed. And that’s between the marijuana business owner and the state of Montana, not us,” Cole said, as quoted by KTVQ.

Montana is still working out its problems with the new recreational marijuana law. A temporary protocol was approved by the state Supreme Court regarding expungement for those who had been previously convicted in relation to pot-related crimes.

As local news outlet KPAX explains, the new cannabis law in Montana “says anyone convicted of an offense that would now be legal in the state can petition to have their conviction removed from their record, get a lesser sentence for it or reclassify it to a lesser offense.”

The court granted expungement procedures to individuals upon its approval.

Voters in Montana approved a measure ending prohibition on pot in 2020, and sales began there on New Year’s Day.

The state sold more cannabis in the first weekend than it had ever seen before.

The state earlier reported this month that in its first three months, adult-use cannabis had brought in $8.7 million in taxes.