It appears that nothing is going to stop the detrimental changes coming to Montana’s medical marijuana program at the end of the month. There will be thousands of patients who are once again without legal access to a medicine that they need; and there will be hundreds, if not more, out of work and worse due to dispensaries being forced to shut down. All this stems from a few major changes to the program which were written in back in 2011 – challenged in court over the previous five years – which will finally go into effect on August 31st.
In attempts to preserve the industry and patients’ rights to medicine that works, the Montana Cannabis Industry Association has taken a number of different steps. First, they challenged the law in courts which lead to the long delay in implementing the changes. When that failed earlier this year, they filed a case against the state, asking them to reconsider their decision. Once again, their efforts were all for nothing as the Supreme Court refused to even hear the case. As a last resort the group created a petition which, if it qualified for the ballot and passed, would roll-back most of the changes being made to the industry.
Initiative I-82 would effectively allow patients access to their medicine again by getting rid of the current 3 patient per doctor limit, creating testing to ensure product consistency and quality and would even remove obstacles which currently stand between patients with chronic pain and medical marijuana. It would also add PTSD as a qualifying condition. Overall, it would really bring the entire program back from the dead. The campaign submitted their signatures and has been approved for the November 8th ballot.
In hopes of keeping the laws in place and the program active until a final decision could be made by voters, the Montana Cannabis Industry Association also filed a “stay” which, if granted, would have pushed the August 31st date back until after the November election. Unfortunately, this week District Judge James Reynolds of Helena denied the request for a stay and has said that the new provisions will go into effect as stated previously by the Supreme Court.
“Our system of government mandates that this Court, as a subsidiary district court, must follow the decisions of our Supreme Court,” the judge wrote.
At this point, the only hope that patients in Montana have for continued legal relief, is for them to pass I-82 this November. This is where residents of the state will be able to put their foot down and make a point: they voted it in once before – and they want those laws to remain in place. Hopefully this initiative makes it to law – otherwise there will be over 10,000 patients forced to either go back to medicines that didn’t work or weren’t as effective, or suffer without any medicine at all.