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Rep. Mike Hopkins, R-Missoula, (copy)

Rep. Mike Hopkins, R-Missoula, speaks on the House floor of the state Capitol in March.

The state House gave initial approval Tuesday to a bill transferring responsibility for inspecting marijuana testing laboratories from the state medical marijuana program to the state environmental laboratory.

Under Montana law, laboratories that test marijuana products for levels of THC, cannabidiol and contaminants must be inspected annually. A person with a “financial interest” in a laboratory cannot also have a financial interest in one of its provider clients.

House Bill 598, carried by Rep. Mike Hopkins, R-Missoula, returned from the Senate for its second turn on the House floor Tuesday and passed 90-9 on second reading. In addition to the transfer of licensing responsibilities, Hopkins’s bill requires testing laboratories to demonstrate “capacity and ability to serve rural areas” before being licensed.  

Concerns over access in rural Montana prompted an amendment to a general medical marijuana reform bill carried by Sen. Tom Jacobson, D-Great Falls, allowing the use of telemedicine to refill prescriptions.  Like Hopkins’s bill, Jacobson’s Senate Bill 265, which Hopkins referred to as his bill’s “cousin,” transfers laboratory licensing to the state environmental laboratory.

Jacobson said House Taxation amendments of his bill coordinated language with that of Hopkins, so neither senator is terribly worried that passage of one bill could preclude the other. Jacobson’s bill is a much more exhaustive reform of state marijuana laws, touching everything from sales tax to telemedicine to licensing procedures and fees.

“That was one element they were concerned (about). If my bill went down and failed to pass, that he wanted to make sure that that language got through,” Jacobson said of Hopkins’s bill.

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“We both just agreed that there’s some fundamental language that absolutely has to be in statute by the time we walk out of this building,” Hopkins said. “So we just wanted to make sure there were multiple vehicles, maximize our chance of making sure that that language is in statute when we leave.”

Jacobson’s bill, which passed the House on third reading Tuesday, is due for another round of Senate debate this week. The bill, as amended by Senate Taxation, originally passed the Senate 36-14 on April 1.

 “I imagine that they will both be signed by the governor and we’ll have a medical marijuana industry in the state of Montana that actually has the focus realigned to the concept of medicine,” Hopkins said.

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Local and State Government Reporter

State and local government reporter for the Independent Record.

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