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Medical Marijuana Ordinance Read In Sidney

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
Sidney City Council members are considering ordinances that ban public consumption of medical marijuana and provide operating guidelines for commercial businesses.

Ordinances 512 and 513 passed first readings during the March 21 council meeting. The ordinances were drafted in response to a significant rise in the number of medical marijuana patient cardholders statewide.

Ordinance 513, much like open container/public drinking laws, states there is a "legitimate governmental interest" in prohibiting smoking marijuana openly "because the inadvertent direct and indirect exposure to marijuana has the potential to significantly affect the health, legal and financial interests of the citizens of Sidney." Smoking it openly also has "the potential to lead to an increase in the use of illegal marijuana."

The ordinance claims that prohibiting public display, consumption or smoking of marijuana is "vital to maintaining a community that is free from the negative effect of the illegal use of drugs..." But it also recognizes using medical marijuana in one's private residence or on private property "outside of public view" is legal under state law.

Violators would draw a misdemeanor charge with a fine of $500 at most or six months jail at most.

Ordinance 512 requires businesses dealing with medical marijuana be located more than 1,000 feet from schools so that "children [will] not be inadvertently exposed to a substance which is, for other than its use in limited circumstances, illegal." It gives businesses that do not follow the guidelines have six months to bring their operations up to code.

The ordinances follow an ordinance adopted by the city of Bozeman in August 2010, which also banned public medical marijuana use. The Medical Marijuana Act, passed in 2004 by state voters, makes it legal to use marijuana for medical purposes for those who are cardholders. In March 2008, there were fewer than 1,000 registered patients and just 233 caregivers. Three years later, that number jumped to 28,618 cardholders and 4,833 caregivers.

Richland County's numbers reflect the jump in numbers as well, though not as dramatic. According to statistics provided by the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, in January 2010, there were 15 medical marijuana cardholders in Richland County and three caregivers. Fast forward to the beginning of March and the county has 148 registered cardholders and 11 caregivers.

City attorney Gerald Navratil said implementing the ordinances was necessary while state legislators decide what to do about the state initiative. "I brought it up as something that seems neceseary for the community as a means of regulating and controlling."

Navratil said about the public consumption ordinance. He added that with state legislators still discussing what to do with the law ( most likely impede strict regulations on medical marijuana cardholder conditions ) and a possible repeal by the governor, it "seemed best to take some pre-emptive action."

Sidney Police Chief Frank DiFonzo said enforcing the public consumption ordinance resembles the open container law in that law enforcement have to be at the right place at the right time. And although it isn't anymore useful in controlling public consumption, it will keep medical marijuana users from using it in public spaces, such as parks. "We don't want them lighting up joints in public," he said.

A second reading will take place during the next council meeting on Monday.

NewsHawk: Jim Behr: 420 MAGAZINE
Source: Sidney Herald Leader (MT)
Copyright: 2011 Sidney Herald Leader
Contact: sherald@midrivers.com
Website: Sidney Herald - Sidney, Montana
Details: MAP: Media Directory
Author: Louisa Barber
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