Montana judge blocks new curbs on medical marijuana

HELENA, Montana Fri Jul 1, 2011 12:45am EDT

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HELENA, Montana (Reuters) - A judge has blocked parts of a Montana law that would have imposed tough new restrictions on state-sanctioned medical marijuana suppliers starting on Friday.

In a preliminary injunction issued on Thursday, state District Judge James Reynolds in Helena ruled those limits would effectively deny access to pot for many patients entitled to use it under the state's 7-year-old medical marijuana statute.

Reynolds said in his 15-page ruling that he was refraining from making a judgment about whether marijuana has medical benefits, noting that issue already had been decided by Montana voters and the state Legislature.

Instead, he said provisions of the law passed earlier this year to overhaul the original voter-approved 2004 ballot measure legalizing pot for medicinal purposes went too far.

Reynolds specifically blocked provisions outlawing any profits in the supply of medical marijuana, including a ban on growers charging customers to recoup the cost of cultivation and a ban on advertising and promotion of medicinal pot.

He also barred enforcement of sections of the new law limiting cultivation to no more than three patients per supplier.

"The court is unaware of and has not been shown where any person 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.

He added that such restrictions "will certainly limit the number of willing providers and will thereby deny the access of Montanans otherwise eligible for medical marijuana to this legal product and thereby deny these persons this fundamental right of seeking their health in a lawful manner."

A spokesman for the Montana attorney general did not return calls seeking comment.

Supporters of the new law said it was designed to close loopholes in the original 2004 statute they said are being exploited by some as a pretext for recreational pot smoking and large-scale drug trafficking.

But medical marijuana advocates who challenged the measure in court said the regulatory reform was deliberately crafted to make it unworkable, calling it a repeal attempt in disguise.

Governor Brian Schweitzer, a Democrat, vetoed an outright repeal bill sent to him by the Republican-controlled legislature in April. But the regulatory overhaul he allowed to become law without his signature.

The number of Montana residents carrying cards allowing them to lawfully possess and use pot for treatment of one ailment or another has jumped from 4,000 in 2009 to nearly 30,000 this year.

Meanwhile, medical pot-growing facilities and dispensaries, many of them operating under one roof, have swelled to more than 4,800 statewide, according to the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services.

All have operated with little state control other than a quota that limits them to six plants per patient.

Although cannabis is still considered an illegal narcotic under federal law, 15 states and the District of Columbia have statutes making marijuana legal for medical purposes.

(Additional reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Peter Bohan)

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Comments (4)
This law did not address any actual harm to the state of Montana. Rather, it was based in Republican legislators’ objection to the fact that Montana voters had effectively legalized marijuana for adults.

Since legalizing medical marijuana, Montana has not seen an increase in crime. Nor has it seen an increase in traffic accidents, juvenile delinquency, or any other social ill that can be demonstrated with statistical data.

No, the only complaint opponents have been able to make is that the law is being “abused”, i.e. the police are no longer able to arrest as many young adults on marijuana charges because Montanans are now able to use the medical marijuana law to shield themselves from arrest for a victimless activity.

Thank God that a judge has seen fit to side with the people rather than the government for a change.

Jul 01, 2011 2:24am EDT  --  Report as abuse
robert1234 wrote:
Wow! A good legal ruling in a Republican state! Of course, it’s because there is money to be made selling stuff, the modern courts will always rule in favor money!

Jul 02, 2011 2:15am EDT  --  Report as abuse
My wife has throat cancer, she can not swallow solid foods anymore, for two weeks she could only eat 1st year baby food.

Marijuana makes her want more food in her belly than without the marijuana, please do not talk to me about legalities.

If in her state she says marijuana helps than I will do whatever is necessary to get it for her and to HELL with any law that would forbid her.

Legalize marijuana for any adult that feels they need or want it, who are those that think they can play GOD with other peoples life ?

Those people that are denying others their marijuana have no problems getting their prescribed pharmaceuticals from the local pharmacist (day or night), we do not have that option, why ?

So what if there are a lot of people seeking marijuana, how many people apply for pharmaceuticals every day ? Billions !

Politicians, Lawyers and Judges want to limit some peoples ability to get their medications because it might be used for recreational use ? You mean like Viagra ? Like alcohol ? are they being denied access to that because too many people want it ?

Marijuana should be as legal as alcohol is, after all isn’t alcohol causing more problems every day than marijuana causes in a year ? Sure is !

How do I get the clones to grow our own ? Do those using pharmaceuticals have to make their own ?

It cost hundreds of dollars to even get the basic equipment needed to grow, three or more month before it is a usable product, cost, cost, cost, etc.

Why can’t I buy what I need anywhere in the united States as those on any pharmaceutical can do ? Just because a few in Washington would rather you get drunk than well ?

Vote for total legalization of marijuana for any adult, have the providers supply the pharmacist with their products, so that poorer people like my wife and I can buy it at a reasonable price, please do not make us criminals without representation, or recourse !

Thank you for your “compassion” !

Jul 02, 2011 5:50pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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