Feb 1, 2021

Don’t Panic: Sen. Jacobson Revising Bill to Ban “Outdoor” Cannabis Grows


lthough the distinction between “outdoor” and “indoor” cannabis grows should be simple enough to specify, State Senator Tom Jacobson (D-Great Falls) has recently discovered that it ain’t as easy as it sounds.

Jacobson is the sponsor of LC0123, a bill designed to prevent cannabis from cross-pollinating with nearby hemp fields by prohibiting “outdoor” cultivation. A draft of the bill, however, made public last week, quickly generated confusion and concern from providers.

Fortunately, Jacobson is in the process of revising the bill to specify the distinction between “indoor” and “outdoor” growing; greenhouses and hoophouses are likely in the clear.

State Senator Tom Jacobson

During a recent interview, Jacobson acknowledged that the definition of “outdoor” that he’d been using - from the Montana Department of Agriculture - may not actually be available.

“It’s never been defined in code before,” Jacobson said. “[I’m] not trying to inhibit anything or put the brakes on anything,” he added.

The state Senator did acknowledge, however, that legislators are likely to prioritize one crop over the other. “I can tell you, in the legislature, they're gonna want to protect hemp farmers more than weed farmers,” he said. 

“The wind blows here in Montana,” Jacobson added. “I don't want [hemp farmers] having to mow down their fields. We’re trying to contain some of that [cross-pollination], the best we can.” 

Jacobson’s argument is bolstered by substantial scientific research. A 2019 report produced by the University of Michigan notes that cannabis pollen can travel more than 10 miles (a separate report pegs pollen’s potential commute at 20,000 miles) and hemp pollen can significantly decrease the essential oils, including terpenes, in the flowers of female cannabis plants. A separate report indicates that cannabis pollen can push hemp plants over the 0.3% THC legal threshold dictated by the 2018 Farm Bill.

Jacobson also recognized that growing cannabis in a greenhouse or hoop house has added economic and environmental appeal. “If you grow in greenhouses you’re going to save a lot of electricity,” he said. “It makes it more profitable and better for the environment. If you grow in hoop houses, same concept.”

Jacobson hopes to have LC0123 finalized by the end of this week, or the beginning of the week of February 8.

“It’s maybe a week-long delay [from the original plan], and then we’ll get it introduced and hopefully passed,” he said.

Stay tuned for more updates on LC0123.