It’s been a long road for medical marijuana patients in Montana since last year, when a law which had been challenged in court over the last five years effectively left over 90% of those patients without access to their medicine. The 2011 law put in effect a limit of three patients for each medical marijuana provider – and considering most providers were dispensaries that provided medicine for thousands of patients each, it left less than 10,000 people with a way to legally access the medicinal plant. While the state government was working on getting that law on the books, medical marijuana activists were working on getting Initiative 182 on the ballot.
The initiative ended up passing on November 8th, and voters were under the impression that voting “yes” would reverse the changes made to the medical marijuana program. It is written to remove the three patient limit, allows for marijuana to be tested by labs, includes Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder to the list of qualifying conditions and requires an annual health department inspection for all providers – which will all help to expand access to patients who have been forced to give up a medicine that works and will also help another group of people to get legal access to medical marijuana in the first place.
Now, unfortunately there was a clerical error when the initiative was finalized – and it was a bit more than a small slip-up. As it stands now, Initiative 182 would not go into effect until June 30th, 2017. Of course, the idea of the initiative was to repeal the law that reduces patient access and with an existing industry there is no reason for any delay in implementing the initiative. A lawyer by the name of Jim Goetz has filed a request with the Broadwater County District Court which would implement the measure immediately, claiming that is the way voters expected it to be.
If the judge agrees and decides that the initiative should be implemented effective immediately, then patients could begin re-registering with the state within a matter of weeks. Goetz is hoping that before the end of the year patients will be able to access their medicine once again. Hopefully the judge sees how important this is – and that the June 30th implementation date was clearly an error. It would be best to help patients regain access as soon as possible – especially considering opponents to the measure are already preparing for the 2017 legislative session where they could attempt to restrict medical marijuana again.