Montana judge tosses key provisions of new medical marijuana laws

Angering prohibitionists, a judge in Montana has upheld some parts of the state’s restrictive new medical marijuana laws and thrown other parts to the wind.

Judge James Reynolds decision tosses out rules that would have prevented caregivers from charging patients for the marijuana they grow. It also removes a ban on advertising and removes limitations on how many patients any individual caregiver can provide marijuana to.

He also struck a provision calling for the review of the work of any doctor recommending marijuana to more than 25 patients in a year.

Opponents of the state’s new more restrictive laws say they are pleased with the decision but that it doesn’t go far enough and they are pushing ahead with gathering signatures to put the issue before voters again, noting that more than 60 percent of voters originally approved the state’s legalization of medical marijuana.

Supporters of the new law, especially Republicans serving in the Legislature, said they are unhappy with the ruling, noting that it is the Legislature’s job to pass laws and should not be up to the judiciary to overturn those laws.

From Reuters:

In a preliminary injunction issued on Thursday, state District Judge James Reynolds in Helena ruled those limits would effectively deny access to pot for many patients entitled to use it under the state’s 7-year-old medical marijuana statute.

Reynolds said in his 15-page ruling that he was refraining from making a judgment about whether marijuana has medical benefits, noting that issue already had been decided by Montana voters and the state Legislature.

Instead, he said provisions of the law passed earlier this year to overhaul the original voter-approved 2004 ballot measure legalizing pot for medicinal purposes went too far.

Reynolds specifically blocked provisions outlawing any profits in the supply of medical marijuana, including a ban on growers charging customers to recoup the cost of cultivation and a ban on advertising and promotion of medicinal pot.

He also barred enforcement of sections of the new law limiting cultivation to no more than three patients per supplier.

“The court is unaware of and has not been shown where any person in any other licensed and lawful industry in Montana — be he a barber, an accountant, a lawyer or a doctor — who, providing a legal product or service, is denied the right to charge for that service or is limited in the number of people he or she can serve,” Reynolds wrote.

He added that such restrictions “will certainly limit the number of willing providers and will thereby deny the access of Montanans otherwise eligible for medical marijuana to this legal product and thereby deny these persons this fundamental right of seeking their health in a lawful manner.”

The judge’s decision can be found here.

While Reynolds struck only four out of more than 30 sections in the state’s new law, they were among the more important sections and the tone of the ruling seemed far more sympathetic toward plaintiffs than toward the state.

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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