Going into Montana's first year of legal recreational marijuana sales, most residents would have probably assumed Missoula, with its left-leaning political climate and general love of things liberal would easily buy the most pot in 2022.

At year's end that's not only NOT the case, but not by a long shot. 

In fact, Missoula is a distant third on the list, according to the December sales records released this week by the Montana Department of Revenue. It's Billings, and not the Garden City, which sold all the marijuana last year, with almost a million dollars a month more going up in smoke, or disappearing in edibles, by December.

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The Department of Revenue numbers shows conservative stronghold Yellowstone County's recreational marijuana sales at $3,350,167. If you add on medical pot sales, the total hits more than $4.5 million in one month. And that's more than a million dollars above Missoula, which wasn't even second. 

That doobie distinction goes to Gallatin County, where recreational users looked for bud bargains to the tune of just over $ 3 million. When coupled with $770,295 in medical cannabis, that brings the Bozeman bonanza to $3.8 million in December alone. 

Missoula? Not even in the same league. 

The state reports Missoula MJ sales were just under $2.6 million for recreational pot. Missoula did finish second in the medical marijuana category with $781,382 in sales through December, still $377,000 less than Billings. 

The numbers do show an interesting, "back of the napkin" calculation though when you figure in the 2022 county population. Based on countywide population divided by total sales, Bozeman residents were spending $33 a person on pot, and Missoula second at $28 per person, both "higher" than the $27 per person in Yellowstone County. 

Other counties are steady but slower

Elsewhere, Flathead County showed a strong $2.5 million in total sales in December. Cascade County didn't break $2 million, and Lewis and Clark County's "toke total" was a solid $1.7 million the month before being invaded by lawmakers and lobbyists. And Butte pulled in $1.2 million in marijuana sales last month. 

Bitterroot doesn't blaze

Ravalli County, often the red-headed stepchild of Montana's counties because of its "in-between" size, doesn't show the Bitterroot burning many buds, with only $683,000 in combined sales. 

While Montana topped $303 million in total cannabis sales last year, tax revenue figures have been lagging. While a majority of Montana's 56 counties have opted for a 3% "local option" sales tax on at least recreational marijuana sales, most of those charges didn't begin until later in 2022. So the comparison of those numbers will be difficult without more data. 

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