BUTTE -- Montana Cannabis Industry Association attorney Jim Goetz filed a request in Broadwater County district court on Tuesday to immediately implement medical marijuana reform Initiative 182 and restore access to thousands of patients otherwise cut off until June 30.
Goetz' complaint contends the implementation date of June 30 is a scrivener's error, and that voters passed I-182 under the belief it would be implemented immediately, not eight months later.
In the complaint, Goetz claims the date couldn't have been the intention of the bill's drafters, citing years of litigation against specific provisions of Senate Bill 423 that cut off 93 percent of patients from their medicine.
According to Goetz, the scrivener's -- or clerical -- error was the result of the renumbering of provisions in I-182 in drafts between advocates and the state, which ended with the erroneous inclusion of a June 30 removal date for the three-patient limit.
The complaint asks the judge specifically to issue a writ requiring the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services to immediately begin issuing registry identification cards, issue an injunction preventing DPHHS from delaying in doing so, and declare the June 30 implementation date a scrivener's error, enacting I-182 in full immediately.
The respondent in the matter is the state health agency, but Goetz told The Montana Standard he doesn't believe DPHHS will oppose the measure. The health agency advocated earlier this year not to implement the three-patient limit that I-182 removes.
"DPHHS is in the process of thoroughly reviewing today's court filing," health department spokesman Jon Ebelt said in an email to the Standard.
You have free articles remaining.
"Until that legal review is complete, it would be premature to comment further. The department understands how important this issue is to thousands of Montanans, and will work as quickly as possible to file an appropriate response with the courts," Ebelt said.
With legislators lining up to reform or repeal I-182 on Jan. 2, Goetz hopes to have access to patients restored through the courts before the session begins.
"It should be significantly before that," Goetz said, "before the middle of December hopefully."
If the court denies Goetz' request, he could appeal to the Montana Supreme Court.
Three medical marijuana patients, a provider and an advocacy group also plan to ask a district judge to block the state from enforcing the three-patient cap on pot providers until the law is repealed.
Montanans Ensuring Access to Natural Medicine and the other plaintiffs on Tuesday released a draft update to a lawsuit filed in September. They are asking Lewis and Clark County District Judge James Reynolds to prevent enforcement of the three-patient limit until July 1.
Attorney Bruce Fredrickson says he expects the amended lawsuit to be filed within days.