A pro-medical marijuana group in Montana is asking that the public be allowed to vote to alter existing provisions that make it difficult to grow and dispense the product within state lines.
The Montana Cannabis Information Center, an organization that advocates for the use of marijuana exclusively for medicinal purposes, recently submitted the 2016 ballot measure to the Secretary of State. The group’s hope is that the effort will lift current legislative restrictions on medical marijuana, which Montanans voted to legalize back in 2004.
Montana Cannabis Information Center President Mort Reid, in reference to Senate Bill 423, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Essmann, R-Billings, said:
“In 2011, the Legislature overturned it in a devious way by going after doctors and growers,”
Under SB 243, Montana doctors who prescribe medical marijuana to more than 25 patients in a calendar year are automatically flagged for review by the Montana Board of Medical Examiners. Furthermore, the bill also set restrictions regarding cultivation and supplying medical marijuana, making it a crime for growers to provide medical cannabis to more than three patients and for growers to charge for the product in the first place.
Reid argues that these strict provisions essentially kill any hope for the industry to thrive and for patients to receive adequate care. Based on patient registration numbers, that may be the case. After the passage of SB 243, the number of registered medical marijuana patients in Montana fell from roughly 30,000 to about 8,000. Currently, the state has 12,017 registered medical marijuana patient. Reid said,
“People still have the option to grow their own but how does an 80-year-old with cancer have that ability to grow marijuana?”
One Montana district court judge already ruled against the provisions set by SB 243, but members of the Montana Cannabis Information Center are not hopeful about an upcoming appeal.
The newly submitted ballot measure now lies in the hands of the Secretary of State. After review, backers can then begin to gather the almost 50,000 signatures required to land it on the 2016 ballot. The new measure joins two other marijuana-related measures that have already been submitted for review. One would ban its use completely as long as it remains federally prohibited, while the other would legalize it for state residents over the age of 21.
A recent poll conducted by the Pew Research Center indicates that a small but notable majority of Americans are in favor of marijuana legalization.