Medical Marijuana Bills Likely Dead

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – A bill to give medical marijuana patients better access to the drug is likely dead after stalling in a House committee on a party-line vote.

All eight Republicans on the House Human Services Committee voted against Senate Bill 326 on Friday, while all eight Democrats voted for it.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Ron Erickson, D-Missoula, would have increased from one ounce to three the amount of marijuana that a state-licensed patient or “caregiver” could possess. It also increased the number of plants a licensed grower could have and listed additional diseases that could be legally treated with marijuana, including diabetes, post-traumatic stress disorder and agitation of Alzheimer’s disease.

Supporters of the bill said patients often can’t get enough of the drug they need under the limits of the current law, enacted by voters in 2004.

“There are problems with access for people who have a legal right to the drug,” said Rep. Arlene Becker, D-Billings, who chairs the committee.

Opponents said they were concerned that licensed growers would sell the drug to recreational users.

Unless a Republican on the panel decides to change his or her vote, the bill remains locked in committee. Any attempt to remove the bill from committee would need 60 votes from the full House.

The bill passed the Senate on a 28-22 vote.

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