As medical marijuana patients, caregivers and doctors in seek to block and eventually throw out a blatantly unconstitutional law, let us take a brief look at how Montana legislators have tried to undermine their own constituents.
Voters passed the Montana Medical Marijuana Act in 2004 and in the years since a flourishing medical marijuana community serving over 30,000 patients developed in the state. Evidently, unhappy by all the jobs created and lives bettered, the GOP controlled legislature set out to destroy medical marijuana. Calling marijuana a “scourge” that is “starting to undermine the very fabric of [the] state,” lawmakers in full Reefer Madness mode tried for an outright repeal of the law at first. When that didn’t fly, SB 423 was created as an alternative that would make medical marijuana unworkable in practice.
Democratic Governor Brian Schweitzer vetoed the repeal attempt early in the year and later called SB 423 “unconstitutional on its face” and said it would not survive the courts. The governor also criticized the legislature for dismissing a more comprehensive regulatory bill. “Why don’t you just pass something that works, that’s constitutional and that can survive the test of time?” He wondered, adding: “I’m kind of disgusted right now.” He then sent the bill back to legislators with several proposed amendments. Most were ignored. Schweitzer did not veto the slightly less draconian bill that resulted. To quote the flip-flopping Governor, “I’m kind of disgusted right now.”
The “overhaul” is set to take effect July 1st and will attack medical marijuana, and civil rights, on all fronts. The law bans commercial marijuana sales but leaves no legal way for patients to obtain seeds or plants. It forces people to carry their marijuana cards at all times, bans parolees from applying, compels blood samples from drivers and makes patients choose either edibles or smoked medicine. Montana marijuana dispensaries are essentially eliminated as providers are forbidden from receiving any sort of payments, are limited to three patients, can be visited by police unannounced and are no longer allowed to advertise. Doctors are also subjected to a slew of recommendation requirements, forbidden to offer discounts and have to undergo a costly medical board review if they recommend marijuana to more than 25 patients in a year. These are only some items from the long list of travesties and unconstitutional assaults on citizens that is SB423.
Groups seeking to formalize and show a united front against the measure formed the Montana Cannabis Industry Association in the wake of the law’s passage. In the days since the MTCIA has maintained a frenetic fund-raising schedule, secured the services of high profile cannabis attorney Jim Goetz and sued the state for violating constitutional rights to privacy and due process with the law. The group has successfully delayed the advertising ban and is currently seeking a court injunction to block the law entirely. MTCIA has also worked to rally public opposition to SB423 by laying the groundwork for a referendum of what it calls “repeal in disguise” and a law “so severe that even the most seriously ill patients will find it difficult if not impossible to obtain physician recommendations, and those who do will find it nearly impossible to maintain a reliable supply of medical-grade cannabis because of the new law’s radical and nonsensical constraints on growing procedures.”
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