Montana Lawmakers Consider New Marijuana Regulations

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – An interim legislative subcommittee has tentatively agreed to some proposals to regulate Montana’s booming medical marijuana industry, including requiring proof of Montana residency before getting a card.

Rep. Diane Sands, D-Missoula, said two other key proposals were discussed Thursday. One would set a limit to the number of patients a caregiver could have and create a new dispensary category for larger operations. Those involved in a dispensary would have to undergo background checks, be licensed by the state and subject to inspection.

The other would prevent physicians from being financially involved with medical marijuana caregivers or dispensaries.

The Legislature’s Children, Families, Health and Human Services interim committee is scheduled to consider draft medical marijuana legislation on Aug. 23-24. The 2011 Legislature will make the final decision.

Through the end of July, about 23,500 Montanans had medical marijuana cards, or about 2.4 percent of the population. Rep. Penny Morgan, R-Billings, noted that a staff report showed 0.95 percent of Oregon residents, 0.62 percent of Colorado residents and 0.03 percent of Colorado residents have medical marijuana cards.

“Why is it that people in Montana are so disabled that they need this so much?” Morgan asked. “In my opinion, there are a lot of people getting cards who shouldn’t have them.”

The draft legislation the committee considered would allow physicians to authorize medical marijuana cards for less than a year and require doctors to monitor a patient’s response to marijuana. People on probation and parole would not be allowed to hold medical marijuana cards and public use would be prohibited.

The draft legislation would also limit the amount of marijuana a dispensary could dispense to two ounces every 30 days per patient. Currently, a patient can possess as much as one ounce at a time, but the law does not say how frequently a person can obtain that ounce.

The draft bill requires medical marijuana to be grown and manufactured in Montana.

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