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Committe To Vote On Cannabis Repeal Monday


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After sitting through a lengthy hearing Friday, the Senate Judiciary Committee postponed until next week its vote on a House-passed bill to repeal the 2004 law that legalized the use of medical marijuana in Montana.

Chairman Terry Murphy, R-Cardwell, said he had hoped to vote on House Bill 161 after the hearing but was urged by Senate officials to postpone it until next week. He has scheduled the executive action for Monday morning, after the committee hears two bills.

Murphy, who prefers tightening regulations on the medical marijuana industry to repeal, intends to appoint a subcommittee to work on a bill that might combine parts of several bills that tighten regulations on the booming industry.

The Judiciary Committee may not have had much time for discussion before a vote Friday anyway. The hearing began at 8 a.m. and went well past noon as almost 50 people testified for repeal and nearly 60 spoke against it.

HB161, by House Speaker Mike Milburn, R-Cascade, sailed through the House 62-37, but may face tougher sledding in the Senate. Murphy has said he doesn't believe the votes are there in the Senate to repeal the law.

On Friday, many of the same people testified for and against the repeal bill, but both sides amped up their witnesses list. Each side had several physicians testifying on their behalf.

Joining Milburn testifying for repeal were the mayors of Billings and Great Falls, the police chief of Missoula, some county attorneys and the physicians who warned of the dangers of medical marijuana to communities.

For their part, repeal opponents had a greater number of seriously ill people, some on crutches and others in wheelchairs, testifying that medical marijuana had improved the quality of their lives, unlike many pharmaceutical drugs. They too had some physicians speak at the hearing who said marijuana can help treat diseases.

Milburn said he decided to have a repeal bill drafted after receiving many calls from school officials, teachers and parents about how marijuana had infiltrated schools and was being used by youths. Other people called with complaints about how medical marijuana growers had destroyed their neighborhoods, with the language, harassment and "stench."

He said about 1,000 more people a month are obtaining cards that authorize them to obtain medical marijuana. More than 28,000 people now have cards.

"Houston, we have a problem," Milburn said.

He said that someone from a United Nations commission on drugs told him, "The whole world is watching Montana." If Montana can repeal the law, the official told him, it might blaze the trail for others.

"This is our state and we need to take it back," Milburn said.

Dr. Paul Gorsuch, a neurosurgeon from Great Falls, said Montana has one the highest rates of medical marijuana users of all the states that have legalized it. Advocates medical marijuana cite medical websites, but he said they misrepresent the findings as supporting its use.

"It's not about science," he said. "It's really about drugs and money."

But another Great Falls physician, Dr. Allan Ward, who specializes in pain medicine, spoke against the bill. He said there are a number of diseases that respond well to cannabis. Ward urged the committee to consider other alternatives to repealing the law.

Daniel Decker, a father of five who said he had helped raise more than 20 other kids, said he was injured on the job six years ago and now suffers from neurological diseases.

"There's not a moment of the day that goes by that I'm not in excruciating pain," he said.

Decker said doctors had prescribed all kinds of medicine – narcotic and non-narcotic – but they didn't help. He said he was unable to leave his house.

"But when I smoke medical marijuana, I can stand up, I can walk, I can talk," he said.

He criticized the proposed repeal of the law.

"To tell me that I can't walk tomorrow, to tell my kids that I can't play with them tomorrow, that's unacceptable," Decker said.

NewsHawk: MedicalNeed: 420 MAGAZINE
Source: helenair.com
Contact: helenair.com
Copyright: 2011, helenair.com
Website: Committe to vote on cannabis repeal Monday
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