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Judge strikes down aspects of marijuana bill

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SB 423 will proceed at midnight, with several exceptions

By Taylor W. Anderson

June 30, 2011

District Court Judge Jim Reynolds announced today he would grant partial injunction on the SB 423, striking down several aspects he noted during the final day of the MTCIA v. State of Montana trial.

Reynolds made the announcement in a statement released Thursday afternoon that he would cut several aspects of the bill that he felt were unconstitutional. SB 423 will still take effect on July 1 at midnight. Reynolds stated the following:

1. Advertising of dispensaries will not be prohibited.

2. Dispensaries will not be raided by federal or state narcotics enforcement agents without search warrant or prior notice. The bill included three aspects of the dispensaries that could have been inspected without prior notice, including patient records.

3. Doctors will not be limited to 25 patients within 12 months before being examined by the Board of Medical Examiners.

4. Dispensaries can continue to sell marijuana to approved patients. They are not limited to three patients.

“The Court is unaware of and has not been shown where any person in any in any other licensed and lawful industry in Montana – be he a barber, an accountant, a lawyer or a doctor – who, providing a legal product or service, is denied the right to charge for that service or is limited in the number of people he or she can serve,” Reynolds wrote.

Sources report that providers must reapply to receive a license starting tomorrow, when SB 423 is set to take effect, and that there will be no licensed providers starting midnight tonight.

The lawsuit, brought forth by the Montana Cannabis Industry Association, sought to block the medical marijuana restriction bill that would have limited providers to three patients and ban any sale of the medicine in Montana, among other stipulations.

The 35-page bill, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Essmann, R-Billings, passed through the Montana Legislature in March the same day the state launched raids on dozens of dispensaries federal agents believed were operating outside the laws put forth by Initiative 148.

Legislators also passed an all-out repeal bill during the session, but that bill was vetoed during Gov. Schweitzer’s branding session during which he nixed 17 Republican-sponsored bills.

The governor spoke publicly against this bill, but said he would allow it to come to fruition on July 1.

The MTCIA announced in a statement earlier this week that it would launch an attempt at putting another medical marijuana referendum on the ballot for November of next year. The office of the Attorney General announced the following day that it would allow the group to proceed in its efforts to get another referendum on the ballot.

“There’s no sitting around and waiting,” said Kate Cholewa, communications director for the MTCIA.

If the group gathers the required 24,000-plus signatures, it would block SB 423 from coming to fruition, and would put future medical marijuana regulation up for a vote.

The injunction as set forth today by judge Reynolds has already taken effect.

You can read the bill

Download the judge’s ruling

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