The state's projected dollar figure for all of 2022 could easily go up in smoke in the next few months.

Figures have been released for the first quarter of 2022 for Montana's recreational cannabis sales. And according to Associated Press, they are outpacing projections by a substantial margin. They are even outpacing original projections, which were dialed down about 35%, as the number-crunchers felt they were too high. No pun intended.

Here is what AP says the Montana Department of Revenue has to report: To date Montana providers have sold $72.9 million in cannabis products in 2022. That figure includes both medical and recreational sales, although recreational sale numbers are noticeably higher than medical.

Recreational cannabis had its biggest month so far in March with nearly $15.9 million in sales. Medical sales came in at $9.8 million. Of that $72.9 million dollar figure, recreational sales have accounted for over $43.5 million. That puts Montana on pace to reach $174 million by the end of the year in recreational sales alone. And really, has the tourism spring and summer tourism season even been much of a factor yet?

Last year the state budget office projected Montana would see $130 million in recreational sales in 2022. That number was adjusted down from earlier projections. State economists suggested the figure would likely be closer to $200 million. But the budget office hedged their bets, anticipating state lawmakers might enact more legislation, potentially curtailing the year's sales.

It's interesting that while individual counties in Montana can add a 3% tax on both recreational and medical sales to draw some of the tax revenues into local coffers, only a few counties, Park, Missoula, Dawson and Yellowstone, have done so.

The guess here is that with that kind of cash pouring in, there will be more hands reaching for it.

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