Panel hashes out rewrite of medical marijuana regulations in Montana

2010-08-23T16:15:00Z 2010-08-23T16:28:56Z Panel hashes out rewrite of medical marijuana regulations in MontanaBy MIKE DENNISON IR State Bureau Helena Independent Record
August 23, 2010 4:15 pm  • 

A legislative panel Monday hashed out a draft rewrite of Montana's medical-marijuana laws, with an eye toward tightening regulations on who can grow, distribute and use the drug.

But even if the bipartisan committee ends up agreeing on the draft bill, its members said it would be just one step in a lengthy process - and that many more proposals are likely to come before the 2011 Legislature.

Rep. Diane Sands, D-Missoula, who chairs the Children, Families, Health and Human Services Interim Committee, said she expects bills to be introduced next year to repeal medical marijuana, put it back before the voters again or perhaps legalize the drug entirely and "tax the heck out it."

"Hopefully this will be the bill that's somewhere in the middle," she said of the measure debated Monday by the committee.

The eight-member, bipartisan panel is expected to vote Tuesday on whether to draft a bill that tightens many aspects of Montana's medical-marijuana program, which was placed into law by voters in 2004.

The committee began work on the rewrite this year, in the face of exploding numbers of people obtaining medical-marijuana cards and an accompanying boom in marijuana-related suppliers, which are loosely regulated under current law.

The number of Montanans holding medical-marijuana cards has ballooned from about 7,300 people at the first of the year to 19,635 through the end of June.

Any draft bill endorsed by the panel would be introduced at the 2011 Legislature, which convenes next January, but wouldn't become law without legislative approval and the signature of the governor.

"This bill is going to be changed a lot before it passes the next session," said Rep. Gary MacLaren, R-Victor, and a member of the committee.

On Monday, the panel generally agreed the bill should include the following changes to state medical-marijuana law:

- Medical-marijuana patients would have to be residents of Montana. Current law contains no such requirement.

- Those obtaining a medical-marijuana card to treat "chronic pain" must have a recommendation from at least two physicians, rather than one. Currently, nearly 70 percent of cardholders list chronic pain as the malady for which they are using marijuana.

- Medical-marijuana "caregivers," who currently can have an unlimited number of patients for which they provide and grow marijuana, would be limited to five patients, and reclassified as "providers."

- New categories of marijuana "dispensaries" and "growers" would be created. They would be licensed by the state and could grow marijuana tied to specific patients that sign up with a dispensary or provider. They would have to provide quarterly reports on their amount of customers and marijuana grown and distributed.

- Licensed providers, growers and dispensaries would have to undergo a fingerprinting and background check by state officials. Convicted felons could not get a license and people on parole or probation with the Department of Corrections could not get a medical-marijuana card.

Several medical-marijuana users and business people testified Monday before the committee, asking it not to unduly restrict what's become a legitimate business and health tool for many Montanans.

"It sounds so many times ... that we're looking for ways to box this in completely and make it go away," said Rick Rosio of Montana Pain Management in Missoula. "Why not fix it in a common-sense application? Please keep the patients first in mind."

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(6) Comments

  1. myopin
    Report Abuse
    myopin - August 24, 2010 12:35 pm
    Is the state not opening itself up to be sued. What would the reaction be to a group lawsuit.

    Do people on prescription pain meds only get them at the end of life. Who are any of you to say who has to suffer and for how long.

    Are they going to limit pharmacies to 5 patients on pain meds??

    Give it a rest people, get a life it's what the "pot heads" are trying to do.
  2. YourCrazy
    Report Abuse
    YourCrazy - August 24, 2010 8:27 am
    "Those obtaining a medical-marijuana card to treat "chronic pain" must have a recommendation from at least two physicians, rather than one. Currently, nearly 70 percent of cardholders list chronic pain as the malady for which they are using marijuana."

    1. Do you need recommendations from two doctors to be put on a narcotic? Which I believe is more of a REAL problem than marijuana is or ever will be in the medical world.
    2. Who is going to pay for the second doctor visit? In this day and age of people complaining about doctor shopping and increased medical costs due to overutilization they are actually calling for double dipping the system for the same diagnosis. People doctor shop now for narcotic pain meds. What does this fix?
  3. AndrewMOJOkj
    Report Abuse
    AndrewMOJOkj - August 23, 2010 9:00 pm
    PROHIBITION of alcohol fueled the largest increase in crime up until they made marijuana illegal. Legalize it for the sake of getting the criminals out of the business. (Of course the Kennedy's maintained their power base after prohibition ended, but Joe always had other ambitions for his boys)
    Andrew Boughter
  4. RationalThought
    Report Abuse
    RationalThought - August 23, 2010 8:35 pm
    GivePeace is right, we should be spending the money on teaching our citizens to spell with programs like Hooked on Phonics.
  5. JustMypinion
    Report Abuse
    JustMypinion - August 23, 2010 6:46 pm
    Oh, "keep in mind the poor patients" with all their chronic pain. What a joke! We were all led to believe this was for people in end stages of their life when the initiative was voted on. Now it is just a way for people to justify legally using... and driving... and working... I feel sorry for those that really need pain management and will be limited in accessing it because of the abuse of the system.
  6. GivePeaceAChance
    Report Abuse
    GivePeaceAChance - August 23, 2010 3:30 pm
    Only a baffoon supports any kind of drup prohition. And thopse baffoons waste tens of billions of dollars and many lives every year fighting their childish (and evil) "war on drugs."

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