Sweeping marijuana reform will become law in Montana

Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer has announced he will allow SB 423 to become law without his signature. Schweitzer earlier vetoed a bill that would have banned medical marijuana outright.

SB 423 does not outlaw medical marijuana, but medical marijuana advocates says it might as well. The law would require all patients to get multiple doctors to sign off on their need for marijuana. It would also shut down marijuana dispensaries and limit caregivers to only three patients each. It would also prohibit them from accepting any compensation from their patients.

Marijuana advocates say the law would force many patients to grow their own marijuana, which will be impossible for some and impractical for others. People renting their homes, living in government housing or living with children might not be able to grow their own.

It was reported last week that in light of recent raids to medical marijuana businesses in the state, many patients are now turning to street dealers for their medicine.

Jim Gingery, executive director of Montana Medical Growers Association, says if this bill becomes law it will effectively shut the state to medical marijuana.

“This is a prohibition bill. It was written to be a prohibition bill, and that is what it is. We are still encouraging the governor to stand up for the citizens of Montana,” Gingery said.

“The governor needs to veto this in order to keep the black market out of Montana,” he said.

He said if SB 423 becomes law, his group and others will launch a referendum to overturn the law. Montana voters approved medical marijuana by greater than a 60-40 margin and Gingery says he thinks the margin could be even higher next time.

Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.

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