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Judge’s decision on medical marijuana caused confusion, halted changes

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By Taylor Anderson

Last week Explore Big Sky reported
on a medical marijuana business in
Belgrade that was facing a possible end
due to SB 423, an attempt to drastically
change what’s become an industry
in Montana.
The following day, Judge Reynolds
released a decision on a requested
injunction by the Montana Cannabis
The decision,
released June
30, said that
(now called
‘providers’) could still sell medicinal
marijuana to approved patients. It also
nixed the aspect of limiting doctors to
approving 25 patients in 12 months so
as to not place limits on their judgment
of care.
The judge’s decision at first appeared
to allow the industry, which has
boomed to 30,000 patients on July
1, to continue its ways virtually
unchecked. Rep. James Knox (RBillings)
initially called the ruling a
“disappointment,” and a setback to the
democratic process, before he found
favorable aspects of the decision.
After the shock of the decision passed,
medical marijuana advocates realized
that although several aspects of
the law weren’t struck down, it may
indeed restrict the industry.
SB 423, which took place July 1 at
midnight, stripped patients on
probation of their cards immediately.
Patients that qualified for a medical
marijuana card under the claim of
“chronic pain” would face stringent
details (X-rays and MRIs) to prove
the extent of the pain once their cards
Patients also have to choose whether
they’d like to grow their own products
or have
a designated
provider, but
they can’t
have it both
ways. Anyone
accused of a
DUI also voids their card under the
new law. The law also allows officers
with probable cause to check blood
levels for THC, the active ingredient
in marijuana, and sets a legal amount
before patients are suspect to DUI.
Providers are subject to background
checks on criminal and financial history,
and can grow four mature plants
for unlimited patients.
SB 423, which was sponsored by Sen.
Jeff Essmann (R-Billings), sought to
ebb the amount of patients in Montana
from 30,000 to just 2,000, and
would have increased the cost for
patients to receive their “card.” Initiative
148, which passed in 2004 with
62 percent of the vote, was repealed
during the session before Gov. Brian
Schweitzer vetoed the bill. The governor
allowed SB 423 to take effect
July 1 without his signature, despite
speaking publicly against it.
(Info provided by Montana NORML

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