Medical Marijuana Bills Rejected by Montana House Panel

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – A House committee has rejected four bills intended to patch a 2011 law that banned medical marijuana commercial transactions but was ultimately blocked with a preliminary injunction by a state judge.

Lee Newspapers of Montana reports that the House Human Services Committee on Friday also tabled the bills by Democrat Rep. Kelly McCarthy of Billings.

District Judge James Reynolds of Helena issued a preliminary injunction blocking the law in January, saying thousands of ill cardholders would be harmed in Montana if their providers went out of business and users were forced to try to grow their own.

The restrictive 2011 state law limited providers to three users and banned compensation in an attempt to squeeze out profits from what was a booming medical marijuana industry in the state. The revised law allowed those with medical marijuana cards to grow their own pot or find someone to grow it for them for free.

The Montana Cannabis Industry Association sued, saying the law would unconstitutionally deny patients access to the medicine they required.

The four bills aimed to fix the 2011 law that resulted from Senate Bill 423. All four were voted down 12-4, with all 10 Republicans and two Democrats opposing the bills. Four Democrats supported them.

Committee Chairman David Howard, R-Park City, called marijuana “a joke.”

“This stuff is disguised as medicine,” said Howard, a former FBI agent. “It makes you delusional. It is psychologically addicting and physiologically addicting, and it absorbs in your fat cells, which is the most dangerous drug there is. This is not a drug. It’s a poison.”

The four bills combined would eliminate the requirement that the Board of Medical Examiners automatically review any physicians who have given written certification for more than 25 people in any 12-month period to use medical marijuana.

They also would allow medical marijuana providers to be paid for providing marijuana to cardholders, remove the three-person limit for the number of cardholders that medical marijuana providers can serve, and eliminate medical marijuana record keeping.

Rep. Amanda Curtis, D-Butte, said the 2011 law essentially made the use of marijuana as medicine illegal.

“The injunctions put on the court facilitated limited use, and we saw the number of cardholders drop from 30,000 to 8,000 with those injunctions,” Curtis said. “We would have had zero without those injunctions.”

Attorney General Tim Fox said Friday he won’t appeal the judge’s ruling temporarily blocking Montana’s law, but will defend that law at a trial.

“Judge Reynolds’ injunction order is preliminary and does not rule upon or address the merits of the case,” said John Barnes, Fox’s spokesman. “Rather than appeal that interim order and cause further delay, Attorney General Fox will proceed to trial and will vigorously defend Montana’s laws.”

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