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1 Last Chance to Rein in Medical Marijuana

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
Last month, The Gazette State Poll conducted by a professional polling firm found that more than half of Montanans ( 57 percent ) wanted the state's seven-year-old medical marijuana law revised with stricter regulations, compared with 11 percent who said they would choose to leave the law as it is and 31 percent who wanted to repeal the voter-enacted law.

In the final days of the 2011 Montana Legislature, lawmakers have crafted one last bill that would rein in the legal use of medical marijuana.

Senate Bill 423, as approved last week by a House-Senate conference committee, addresses all the concerns raised in a March 22 Gazette opinion. It would:

Bar individuals on probation, parole or under any court supervision or in any correctional facility from obtaining a legal marijuana card or becoming a legal marijuana provider.

Give local government authority to regulate and inspect legal marijuana providers.

Cut down on abuse of the law by banning the use of telemedicine or Skype consultations for the physician recommendation to use marijuana. Also, all physicians recommending medical use of marijuana would have to follow usual standards of medical care as prescribed by the Montana Board of Medical Examiners.

Ban use of legal marijuana on any school property, school bus, public transportation, the property of any church or synagogue, other public places and "in plain view of or in a place open to the general public."

Clarify that employers may restrict employees from using marijuana on the job.

HB423 would replace the voters' 2004 law with a host of restrictions that still allow certain individuals to use marijuana as medicine but probably would shut down the business of legal marijuana in Montana.

Under HB423, a marijuana cardholder could possess up to four plants or designate a provider, who couldn't be compensated for providing marijuana. Providers could serve only one cardholder who isn't a second-degree relative. Relatives included, a provider could furnish marijuana for up to three cardholders.

Among the 4,848 medical marijuana caregivers registered with the state Department of Public Health and Human Services at the end of March, slightly over half ( 2,434 ) had only one patient. An additional 1,046 had two or three patients. Thirty-four had more than 100 patients.

The conference committee bill also would require the Board of Medical Examiners to review the practices of any physician who recommends marijuana for more than 15 patients in 12 months. Furthermore, the bill would require the physician to pay the cost of the board's review. That provision apparently wouldn't apply to the majority of the 360 Montana physicians who have recommended marijuana to their patients. According to DPHHS data, 274 physicians have signed recommendations for only 1 to 10 patients and 29 physicians have signed for 11-20 patients. On the upper end of the scale, 32 physicians have recommended marijuana for more than 100 patients.

The 22-page bill, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Essmann, R-Billings, is scheduled for second reading Tuesday in the House and Senate.

It is concerning that this bill was extensively rewritten in committee in the final days of the session. The conference committee added nearly 160 amendments last week. This rush may indeed result in unintended consequences. However, it's clear that the current law has serious loopholes that most Montanans want closed. SB423 is the only legislation still alive that could control the burgeoning medical marijuana industry and create a program that "provides legal protections to persons with debilitating medical conditions who engage in the use of marijuana to alleviate the symptoms of the debilitating medical condition."

That's what Montanans voted for in 2004. We urge lawmakers to support the restrictions in SB423.

NewsHawk: Jim Behr: 420 MAGAZINE
Source: Billings Gazette, The (MT)
Copyright: 2011 The Billings Gazette
Contact: BillingsGazette.com - Contact Us
Website: The Billings Gazette - Montana & Wyoming News
Details: MAP: Media Directory


On Vacation
I agree.
People who really need MMJ should support tighter resrictions.
If you want to grow dope for profit, you should man up and do it.
Dont hide behind someone who needs it. you're either a lazy weasel or a criminal.
Lots of people are criminals so what?
Roll the dice. Be a criminal, makes it that much more exciting
Its the lazy weasels I despise.
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