Judge Blocks Key Provisions of Montana Medical Marijuana Law

Judge permanently blocked several provisions, including the ban on the advertising of marijuana and the prohibition against commercial sale for profit

By Associated Press

HELENA – A Montana judge permanently has banned enforcement of key provisions of the state’s medical marijuana law.

District Judge James Reynolds of Helena on Friday permanently blocked several provisions, including the ban on the advertising of marijuana and the prohibition against commercial sale for profit of marijuana to people authorized to obtain it for medical reasons.

The provision against for-profit sales essentially meant that medical marijuana cardholders had to grow their own pot.

Reynolds struck down provisions that restrict a medical marijuana provider from assisting more than three people licensed by the state to obtain legal pot or marijuana-infused products, again without them being able to be paid.

The judge also ruled against a part of the law that required the state to provide the Board of Medical Examiners with the names of any physician who within a 12-month period wrote certifications for medical marijuana for 25 or more patients. Such notice would have required the physician to pay for an automatic review of his practices by the Board of Medical Examiners.

The provisions that Reynolds struck down had never taken effect either because the judge earlier had blocked them or because the state had agreed not to enforce them.

At the same time, Reynolds ruled in the state’s favor and refused to enjoin two provisions in the law that had been challenged.

He let stand a provision allowing the state Department of Public Health and Human Services and state and local law enforcement agencies to make unannounced inspections of medical marijuana providers during normal business hours. Reynolds also blocked enforcement of another provision forbidding people under probation or under the supervision of the Department of Corrections from being able to obtain marijuana cards.

The Montana Cannabis Industry Association and some individuals challenged the law shortly after its passage in 2011, contending it was unconstitutional.

The Montana Attorney General’s Office has defended the law. Reynolds has ruled on it twice while the state supreme court has ruled on it once.

Montana voters in 2004 passed an initiative that legalized the use of marijuana for people with certain medical conditions.

The Legislature passed the restrictions in the 2011 law after seeing a vast increase in Montanans applying for medical marijuana cards starting in mid-2009. That’s when so-called “cannabis caravans” traveled the state, often providing cards to patients in five or 10 minutes after a brief consultation with a physician, often via the Internet.

The number of medical marijuana cardholders ballooned from about 2,000 in March 2009 to a peak of over 31,500 in May 2011. By November 2014, more than 9,600 people had medical marijuana cards, according to the state Department of Health and Environmental Science.

The Billings Gazette reports that it wasn’t immediately clear whether Montana Attorney General Tim Fox will appeal Reynolds’ decision. A spokesman said the attorney general’s office received the decision late Friday and was reviewing it.

Attorney James Goetz of Bozeman, who represented the Montana Cannabis Industry Association and others, praised the decision.

“It’s a pretty complete victory for us,” Goetz said. “Those are two tangential provisions that he upheld.”

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