Lawmaker Wants to Amend Montana MMJ Laws

Montana

When Montana passed medical marijuana in 2004, 62 percent of voters were in support of the measure. Despite popular support, the legislature gutted the state’s medical marijuana program seven years later and replaced with a new and restrictive system.

This led to a massive drop in patients enrolled in the program, going from 30,000 patients to a paltry 8,000 in just three years.

Earlier this year, Montana Judge James Reynolds threw out key provisions in the state’s medical marijuana laws. Among some of the provisions thrown out were bans on selling medical marijuana for profit and limiting the number of patients a caregiver can see.

The industry hailed the decision as a victory for Montana patients, but without further legislative clarification, parts of the ruling have failed to take effect. In order to help clear up some of the confusion, Democratic Sen. Robyn Driscoll has announced plans to introduce a bill which would codify some of the critical findings in Reynolds’ ruling.

“There were so many people who, when I was knocking on doors, older people not dopers, who wanted medical marijuana,” Driscoll told the Missoulian. “They don’t want opiate prescriptions.”

Although the bill has not been introduced into the legislature yet, Driscoll revealed that her bill would amend existing medical marijuana law and do the following:

  • Allow for-profit commercial sale medical marijuana for those with medical marijuana cards.
  • Remove the limit on how many patients a caregiver can see.
  • Remove the ban on providers from buying or selling marijuana plants, seedlings, clones, cuttings, flower, or infused products.
  • Allow medical marijuana advertising.
  • Add post-traumatic stress disorder to the list of qualifying conditions.
  • Remove the requirement that physicians who annually recommend medical marijuana to 25 patients or more automatically undergo review from the state Board of Medical Examiners, with the doctor responsible for covering review costs.
  • Require medical marijuana providers to pay an annual $100 fee. While not originally a part of Reynolds’ ruling, Driscoll added this requirement so the bill would qualify as a “revenue bill,” which can be submitted to the legislature later than other bills.

Currently, no date has been announced as to when the bill will be submitted to the legislature. However, Driscoll has said that she hopes to pass the bill this session, and if she’s successful it would mark the end of a painful period in Montana’s medical marijuana history.

For years, patients in Montana have been forced to grow their own medical marijuana or travel to nearby states to get their medicine. From a public health perspective, Driscoll’s bill would make life easier for the state’s medical marijuana patients. And from a business perspective, Driscoll’s bill would finally allow the industry to move from survival mode toward some semblance of recovery; and given a few years, the state’s industry could bounce back.

William Sumner, a freelance writer and marijuana journalist, was a staff writer for MJINews from May 2014 through February 2018. You can follow him on Twitter @W_Sumner.

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