MT judge issues order against medical marijuana overhaul

On Friday, shortly after legislation essentially banning medical marijuana in Montana took effect, a judge said ‘not so fast’ and signed an order temporarily stopping some parts of the law from being enacted.

Medical marijuana proponents have vowed a fight in a state where well over 60 percent of voters approved legalizing medical marijuana. They were able to raise $50,000 in just a few days, using the money to hire one of Montana’s top constitutional lawyers.

The judge’s ruling only suspends the new law’s ban on advertising medical marijuana products, most of which are set to become illegal in July.

Marijuana proponents say the new restrictions, passed recently by the legislature, would effectively ban medical marijuana in the state, in spite of voters’ wishes.

From the Billings Gazette:

The new state law repeals Montana’s 2004 voter-passed medical marijuana law, imposes restrictions aimed at making it much harder for people to qualify to legally use the drug, and limits the drug’s availability by banning large growing operations. Instead, it sets up a system where a provider can grow medical pot for up to three people, but at no charge.

Medical marijuana proponents in Montana say one of the biggest problems with the new rules is that restricts caregivers to providing marijuana to only three patients, and prohibits them from charging the patients for the marijuana. Patients can also grow their own, but for many that is impractical.

People who were using the law as cover for recreational use will likely go back to buying on the street, but many who do have medical conditions which are alleviated through the use of medical marijuana will be out of luck.

From the Gazette:

A critical problem with the 2011 changes is that they effectively eliminate producers, the brief said, leaving medical cannabis to “somehow spring up by immaculate conception and be timely available to those patients in need,” the plaintiffs’ brief said.

It cited plaintiff Charlie Hamp, 79, whose wife, Shirley “Butch” Hamp, suffered from cancer of the esophagus and had an esophagectomy, a serious surgery, that resulted in her weight dropping from 105 pounds to 88 pounds. Doctors suggested she try medical marijuana, and she laces her coffee with a marijuana tincture every morning.

“Under the amendments, her caregiver will be out of business,” the brief said. “Of necessity, under the law, her ‘provider’ will now become her husband. … He is reluctant, but there is no alternative. But Charlie has not a clue about how to obtain seedlings, beginning the grow process, cultivating the plants, how long this will take or ultimately how to manufacture the necessary tincture for his debilitated wife.”

The brief added, “At their age and in their condition, the last thing they need is for a ‘Big Brother’ government to come into their lives and dictate what they can and cannot do about their personal health and well being,” the brief said.

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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