Products at the Cannabis Corner in Helena on January 1, 2022 (Arren Kimbel-Sannit/The Daily Montanan)

It was late morning on New Years Day, and though much of downtown Helena was cold and quiet, business was good at the Cannabis Corner.

A steady stream of customers had braved the frigid temps all morning long, lining up in the dawn of a new day for Montana: Recreational marijuana had arrived. Though technically legal to possess up to a certain amount since the passage of Ballot Initiative 190 in 2020, pot was not available for legal purchase without a medical card until the new year, creating time for lawmakers and state officials to erect an expansive regulatory framework, and for dispensary owners, growers and more to understand it, stock up and get ready.

J.D. “Pepper” Petersen, the owner of the Cannabis Corner, got to know this bureaucracy better than most in the industry. He was at the fore of the campaign for legalizing adult-use marijuana, then, as president of the Montana Cannabis Guild, lobbied for dispensaries as legislators created a taxation, revenue collection and regulation structure for the marijuana sector in the form of House Bill 701.

“It’s been a lot of uncertainty,” he said.

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