Weed for wildlife: Montana cannabis taxes send $1.1M for conservation
State funding for nongame wildlife in Montana went from six figures to over $1 million for one reason: cannabis.
The newly approved spending plan from The Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission includes 4% of the cannabis tax revenue put aside for the state’s natural fauna.
This is the first time the commission has spent cash from cannabis taxes. The revenue distribution was established during the 2021 legislative year. Donations were previously collected for this fund from residents who opted in on income tax forms. This flush of cannabis cash brought the average funding of $40,000 up to $1.13M.
Administrator of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks wildlife division Ken McDonald addressed the commission Thursday.
“We have about 400 species in nongame wildlife to include birds, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles, so this is really a nice infusion to help with management and conservation of a significant number of species in our state,” McDonald shared.
The division will funnel funding towards conservation work and habitat restoration for “species of great conservation need.” Their primary goal is to identify nongame species. They then hope to fortify the animal’s needs before they end up on an endangered species list.
The Pygmy rabbit and Pinyon jays are among the animals that need more protection. Bats in the Little Belt Mountains are also facing white-nose syndrome. The funding will create programs that monitor (and hopefully eradicate) the disease from the bat population.
Montana cannabis collected $300 million between adult-use and medical cannabis sales last year. Adult-use cannabis is taxed 20 percent in the state, and medical cannabis carries a 4 percent tax. Of these funds, 4 percent is allotted to nongame wildlife, and another four percent is earmarked for state parks and trails.
If lawmakers don’t alter the allocated four percent isn’t in 2025, a grant system will be formed to approve and fund wildlife conservation programs.
Lawmakers develop tax distribution that addresses the needs of their state when building the framework for cannabis commerce. In Nevada and Michigan, cannabis taxes go to education. As for California, consumers are still trying to track down where tax money is being distributed.
Wherever the tax money goes, most legal states seem to be earning tons of it. And in Montana, that’s benefitting the animals.