Medical Marijuana: Legal Battles and Arraignments

By Beacon Staff

Despite the 2011 Legislature’s attempts to strictly regulate medical marijuana through a new law, the Flathead is still seeing repercussions from the so-called gray areas of the state’s original Medical Marijuana Act.

In Flathead County District Court last week, attorneys discussed the legality of caregiver-to-caregiver transactions, which means a medical pot provider giving or selling their stock to another provider.

The complaint – filed by the Medical Marijuana Growers Association against Flathead County Attorney Ed Corrigan – seeks declaratory judgment to determine that a medical marijuana caregiver can legally “deliver, transport or transfer marijuana and its paraphernalia to another caregiver” either themselves or through an agent.

It also looks to clarify that a caregiver can legally cultivate and manufacture marijuana as an agent or a contractor for another caregiver.

During the July 7 oral arguments, Deputy County Attorney Tara Fugina said the complaint would cause judicial expansion of medical marijuana law, creating ambiguity where none exists.

“This Medical Marijuana Act is what the voters enacted,” Fugina said, adding later: “The court should not be inserting what is otherwise not there.”

However, MMGA attorney Chris Lindsey argued via telephone that the complaint would serve to clarify marijuana transfer rules, not judicially expand the law.

Timothy Baldwin, another attorney for MMGA, said the statute anticipates and encourages a provider to deliver marijuana to another provider for a patient’s use.

A similar complaint in Missoula District Court was denied in April, but Lindsey told District Judge Stewart Stadler the ruling is being appealed in Montana’s Supreme Court.

Also on July 7, four Flathead County men were arraigned in federal court in Missoula on charges stemming from federal raids on several medical marijuana storefronts last March.

Evan James Corum, 35, Whitefish, appeared on charges of conspiracy to manufacture marijuana, conspiracy to distribute marijuana, possession with the intent to distribute marijuana, conspiracy to launder monetary instruments, and money laundering.

Jonathan Janetski, 43, of Kalispell, Michael Kassner, 24, of Kalispell and Tyler Roe, 29, of Kalispell, all appeared on charges of conspiracy to manufacture marijuana, conspiracy to distribute marijuana, and possession with the intent to distribute marijuana.

If convicted of these charges, the men face possible penalties of a mandatory minimum of five years in prison and could be sentenced to 40 years, a $5 million fine and at least four years supervised release.

All four men pleaded not guilty to the charges.

In addition to the Flathead’s legal issues, Helena District Judge James Reynolds issued a preliminary injunction late last month on pieces of the state’s new medical marijuana law.

Specifically, Reynolds blocked Montana’s attempts to prohibit medical pot providers from making profits on their crop, as well as the state’s ban on medical marijuana businesses advertising their wares.

The judge also blocked provisions of the new law that would have allowed unannounced searches of providers and requiring investigations into any doctor recommending marijuana for more than 25 patients a year.

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