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Rep. Zach Brown, D-Bozeman, right, debates House Majority Whip Derek Skees, R-Kalispell,

Rep. Zach Brown, D-Bozeman, right, debates House Majority Whip Derek Skees, R-Kalispell, on the House floor Monday about Senate Bill 265, which would reform the state's medical marijuana law. 

A reform of state medical marijuana law passed its second reading vote on the state House floor Monday before being referred to and then passing out of the House Appropriations committee the same afternoon.

The now 63-page Senate Bill 265 carried by Sen. Tom Jacobson, D-Great Falls, took on 28 pages of amendments before passing the Senate April 1 and taking on a second round of amendments in the House Taxation committee last week.

Jacobson told House Taxation he felt his bill patches holes in the state medical marijuana program left over from previous legislation. Provisions include a licensing system that takes into account a marijuana provider’s square footage of canopy space, and directing excess revenue to a special revenue account to fund pain management education.

The Senate Taxation committee attached text forbidding the state Department of Public Health and Human Services from issuing new marijuana provider licenses until all current license holders are compliant with Metrc, the state system that tracks marijuana products from seed to sale.

Amendments the House concurred with in Monday’s vote include:

  • Placing a sunset on the increased 4 percent tax on gross sales of marijuana providers. Effective October 1, 2021, the tax reverts to its current 2 percent.
  • Allowing the use of telemedicine to renew prescriptions.
  • Charging dispensary license fees of $500 for one registered location, $5,000 for two or three, $25,000 for four or five, and $100,000 for six or more.
  • Dictating that the annual cardholder license fee may not fall below $20.

A failed amendment introduced on the House floor Monday by Rep. Peggy Webb, R-Billings, sought to repeal the use of telemedicine from the bill. Webb said she brought the amendment forward after a constituent in the medical marijuana business told Webb about her worries that the telemedicine provision in the bill needed more scrutiny or it could open to door to unethical practices.

“We already have unethical doctors doing things improperly and unethically. We don’t need to make it easier for them,” Webb said. She added that she was open to telemedicine language in the bill that wouldn’t put the state program “at risk.”

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Rep. Zach Brown, D-Bozeman, argued that telemedicine received thorough attention in House Taxation.

“We made it clear that if somebody wants to use telemedicine to renew their prescription on an annual basis, they can only do that for renewals,” Brown said. “The initial doctor-to-patient relationship has to be established in person. Telemedicine in the case of renewals is really for rural providers and rural patients who may not have access to a doctor in a hospital.”

The bill requires that any doctor using an “audio-only visit” to provide written certification to their patient must have met the patient in person when they established their relationship.

Webb’s amendment failed 36-64 before the bill, without floor amendments, passed second read 68-32.

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Local and State Government Reporter

State and local government reporter for the Independent Record.

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