Montana I-190, the Montana Marijuana Legalization and Tax Initiative, was a cannabis legalization initiative that appeared on the November 3, 2020, Montana general election ballot. Passing with 57% approval, the initiative legalized recreational marijuana in the state effective January 1, 2021. Under I-190 § 8(1)(a), it is now lawful and no longer a criminal offense to possess 1 ounce or less of marijuana, except that not more than 8 grams may be in a concentrated form. Moreover, under I-190 § 36(5)(a)(i), a person who has completed a sentence for an act that is now legal – such as possession of 1 ounce or less of marijuana – may petition the sentencing court to expunge the conviction.
Possession of any other illegal drug – even residue – remains a felony offense in Montana.
Distribution and manufacturing of illegal drugs are also felony offenses.
Search and seizure issues are common in drug cases, and one of the first issues we will review is whether you were stopped or searched illegally. We have obtained dismissals of numerous drug cases by successfully challenging illegal search and seizures by law enforcement with motions to suppress and dismiss.
If there are no suppression or dismissal issues for your case, there is still a statutory presumption that you are entitled to a deferred imposition of sentence on a first drug possession conviction. A deferred sentence results in an eventual dismissal so long as you satisfy the conditions of deferment, like probation and treatment. We often ask our clients charged with drug offenses to obtain a chemical dependency evaluation and follow treatment recommendations before going to court, because this proactive approach puts our clients in the best position to get a reduced or deferred sentence thereby avoiding a permanent felony conviction.