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Caregivers Consider Legal Action and Street Dealing if Reform Bill Becomes Law

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For now, Montana caregivers can only wait.

In the next eight days, Gov. Brian Schweitzer's veto, signature, or inaction will determine the fate of their medical marijuana industry. Schweitzer announced last week that he will allow a bill – which would essentially put an end to the industry – to become law by not acting on it within 10 days. He received it Tuesday.

In the meantime, providers and patients are living in limbo. Some are still hoping that Schweitzer will veto the bill, while others are planning petitions, protests, lawsuits and a referendum to undo it if it becomes law.

Others plan to walk away – already considering the bankruptcy, unemployment and food stamps that could be on their horizon – and some may be looking to the streets for a new, underground business venue.

If the bill becomes law, it will go into effect July 1. But for now, no matter what their next option or how grim their future seems, caregivers seem to be holding their breath.

"I have my entire life invested into this thing," said James Russell, owner of 420 Solutions in Bozeman. "It's not that easy to walk away."

Russell, who's been a caregiver since 2005, has a small business that serves 15 patients. With a young son to take care of, he said he's wondering what to do next, and has considered moving to another state where he could continue selling marijuana. Still, he's hoping a petition or referendum might reverse the bill if it becomes law.

Anthony Smith, owner of Stonehouse Gardens in Belgrade, said he's going forward with his business as if nothing has happened. However, he said he's planning a protest at the capitol building in Helena this weekend.

"These laws are like the Jim Crow laws of the south," he said. "They discriminate against a culture of people who believe in natural remedies and like to do things a little differently."

Smith said he sees the next two months as an opportunity for those in the medical marijuana industry to fight back. He, too, hopes a petition could keep the bill from being implemented. And if not?

"I'm going to be where I was a year ago," he said. "I'm going to be broke."

He said he'd like to ask Schweitzer what he plans to do for the people impacted by the legislation who could lose their homes and property. Smith used to work as a masonry contractor, but he said that job slowed greatly with the economy.

Lenny Brown, the owner of Cannabis Connection in Bozeman, said his plan is "to overturn this silly initiative." He wants to get a petition going, and file lawsuits against the "unconstitutionality of the whole thing."

"We're not going to roll over," he said. "We're going to try to get this thing turned around."

Still, he's preparing to shut down his business if he has to. He's been cutting back his plants, and plans to file for unemployment if the reform bill becomes law.

Another caregiver said he's thinking about continuing to grow marijuana but selling it on the streets. He refused to be named because he may conduct business illegally.

Jim Gingery, the executive director of the Montana Medical Growers Association, said the group is "planning a referendum that will be completed in time to stop the implementation" of the bill, which is Senate number 423.

"We'll put it on the ballot for citizens to consider," he said, but added that he's hoping the governor changes his mind.

"This is a travesty for patients and providers in Montana," he said. "If the new law passes, we'll be out of business and bankrupt by July 1."

Schweitzer said last week he cannot allow Montana's current medical marijuana law – which has allowed marijuana businesses to flourish and their patients to grow to more than 30,000 people – to continue.

News Hawk- Jacob Ebel 420 MAGAZINE
Source: bozemandailychronicle.com
Author: Carly Flandro
Contact: Contact Us
Copyright: The Bozeman Daily Chronicle
Website: Caregivers consider legal action and street dealing if reform bill becomes law
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