For some, having access to medical marijuana is the only thing that helps them get through their days. Now it seems that both shop owners and patients alike will be seeing some big changes to Montana’s medical marijuana policy – and some changes could costs some dispensary owners their livelihoods.
It’s been over 10 years since Montana legalized medical marijuana in 2004 – and since then their industry has seen quite a few changes. The growth wasn’t so quick from the get-go, but by the time 2009 rolled around they had over 30,000 individuals enrolled as medical marijuana patients.
The large number – especially in a population of around 1 million – was shocking and seemed to look as though many individuals were using the medical marijuana system to get recreational drugs legally. This prompted a whole new set of rules – a much more restrictive set of rules, at that.
The new legislature was introduced in 2011 – only two years after the explosion of registered patients in the state. The Montana Cannabis Industry Association stepped in with an attempt to reverse the changes – and the Supreme Court made their final ruling this week. It appears that most of the restrictive measures from the 2011 legislature will remain intact and will go into effect by March 10th.
Currently, after the 2011 restrictions were originally written up, the number of registered patients in the state of Montana rests at just more than 13,000 individuals. For those 13,000 individuals the state has only 471 dispensaries that are still active. Unfortunately, the largest of those businesses could be forced to shut down due to the implementation of these regulations.
The changes to the medical marijuana program include limiting providers (shop owners/dispensaries) to only sell to three registered medical marijuana patients at a time. This is the biggest problem with the legislature as it now reads – even if all 471 businesses sold to three individuals each it would leave over 10,000 patients without access to the medicine they need.
Another major change coming with this is doctors will be limited to recommending 25 patients for medical marijuana treatment each year. If they recommend any more than that – even by one patient – they are automatically to be put under review. This could lead to doctors being pickier about who can receive a medicine that could vastly improve their quality of life.
The last mentioned major change is a ban on marijuana advertisements. If any of these measures prevent people from continuing to consume recreational marijuana illegally it is not likely to make an impact.
Montana businesses could be in trouble with less than two weeks to determine their next course of action. Chances are they are selling off the last of their supply to patients who will no longer have access in a couple weeks. While there might have been a need for better outlined regulations and restrictions on the program, I personally think these laws are overboard.