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Changes in medical marijuana rules headed to Montana Legislature

August 28, 2010

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Changes in medical marijuana rules headed to Montana Legislature

By MIKE DENNISON Missoulian State Bureau | Posted: Wednesday, August 25, 2010 6:15 am

HELENA – A bill tightening Montana’s medical marijuana regulations will be drafted and forwarded to the 2011 Legislature, a panel of lawmakers decided Tuesday.

Medical marijuana users and growers warned that the proposal contains some unnecessary restrictions on patients and suppliers of the drug, which has taken off as a booming business in Montana the past year.

But legislators who voted for the measure said it’s just one step in a lengthy legislative process, and that any proposal is bound to be changed many times before it might become law.

“This is a bill that, at this point, is nobody’s favorite child,” said Rep. Diane Sands, D-Missoula, the chair of the Children, Families, Health and Human Services Interim Committee. “No one here is suggesting this will be the final version of this bill.”

Sands also said the panel’s work is not an effort to prevent anyone with a “legitimate health issue” from getting medical marijuana, but rather to stop what most members see as abuses of the system by people who aren’t really sick.

The bipartisan panel voted 7-1 to have the bill drafted and prepared for introduction at the 2011 Legislature, which convenes in January. The only committee member voting against the proposal was Rep. Mary Caferro, D-Helena, who earlier indicated she thought it contained too many restrictions on legal recipients of medical marijuana.

The panel has been working for months on a rewrite of Montana’s medical marijuana laws, in response to the dramatic growth of medical marijuana businesses and users.

Montana voters approved medical marijuana by initiative in 2004. The state had fewer than 4,000 medical marijuana patients a year ago; now, about 22,700 people have a medical marijuana card.

The bill endorsed by the committee Tuesday would require medical marijuana users to be Montana residents; require fingerprinting, background checks and licensing for marijuana suppliers; make it harder to get a marijuana card for treatment of “chronic pain;” and allow cities and counties to use zoning and other laws to restrict, but not prohibit, marijuana businesses.

At Tuesday’s meeting, providers of medical marijuana objected most often to a provision that says patients who want the drug to treat chronic pain must get a recommendation from two doctors instead of one.

Bill Hund, a medical marijuana caregiver in Butte, said his patients don’t have much money and can’t afford to see more than one physician.

“I ask you to show a little compassion to these people,” he said.

They also objected to a new proposed limit of two ounces of marijuana per month per patient, saying some patients simply need more to treat their debilitating condition.

Tom Daubert of Helena, the head of Patients and Families United, a lobby group representing medical marijuana patients, said he agreed that abuses of the law have occurred.

The most important steps the Legislature can take to curb those abuses are more clearly defining what physicians must do in recommending marijuana for a patient and regulating marijuana providers and growers, requiring them to file detailed reports on how much marijuana they produce and for whom they produce it, he said.

“If you focus on those two (items), you would wipe away the vast majority of the abuses we’ve seen,” Daubert said.

Missoulian State Bureau reporter Mike Dennison can be reached at 1-800-525-4920 or at

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 17, 2010 9:58 pm

    Montana needs to get into the weed game…quick! 🙂

  2. September 22, 2010 2:08 am

    As long as your laws are not as bad/confusing as CA. then your ahead of the game.

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