Montana Judge Throws Out Key MMJ Provisions

Montana Judge

Montana Judge James Reynolds has thrown out key provisions in the state’s medical marijuana laws, which is being hailed as a huge victory for the medicinal marijuana industry.

In 2004, Montana citizens approved Initiative 148, which legalized medical marijuana in the state. Dissatisfied with the loose regulation, the Montana state approved SB 423, which repealed Initiative 148 and replaced it with a stricter medical marijuana system that was designed to discourage participation in the system.

The results have been disastrous for Montana patients, with patient registries plummeting from 30,000 to a mere 8,000 in 2014.

Shortly after the passage of SB 423 in 2011, the Montana Cannabis Industry Association challenged the law’s constitutionality under the Equal Protection Clause and now more than three years later, results have finally emerged.

According to Great Falls Tribune, Judge Reynolds blocked the following provisions:

  • A ban on medical marijuana providers from servicing more than three patients
  • A ban on medical marijuana providers from taking monetary compensation for their services
  • A ban on citizens on probation or under supervision of the state from acquiring a medical card
  • Doctors that issue more than 25 medical marijuana recommendations in a year must have their medical practices reviewed by Board of Medical Examiners.

Judge Reynolds, did, however, hold up the provision in SB 423 that allowed for the Department of Health and Human Services, as well as law enforcement, to perform unannounced inspections of medical marijuana providers.

James Goetz, attorney for the Montana Cannabis Industry Association, spoke with the Montana Standard about the verdict.

“It’s a pretty complete victory for us,” Goetz said. “The heart of the case is the three-patient limit and the ban on financial remuneration, and he held they don’t even survive the most minimal scrutiny under the equal-protection clause (of the U.S. Constitution), and he’s right on that.”

For those that are a rusty on constitutional law, the Equal Protection Clause is part of the 14th Amendment and it basically forbids any state from denying any person within its jurisdiction the “equal protection of the law.” In the context of this court case, banning financial reimbursement and limiting patients constituted discrimination.

Interestingly enough, Judge Reynolds also threw out a provision which banned marijuana advertising. No one expects cannabis television ads to start appearing on the local air waves any time soon, but this court decision creates an interesting range of possibilities for the Montana cannabis industry.

While Montana may not be the best state for investing in cannabis, this court decision is a step in the right direction. Dispensaries are still outlawed in the state, but that will need to change if Montana wants a strong cannabis industry. The odds are long but the year is still young. We cannot predict what will happen in the coming legislative session, but at least marijuana is off to a good start in Montana.

 

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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