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MT Senate Committee Approves Therapeutic Marijuana Act

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
The Montana Therapeutic Marijuana Act is on its way to the Senate after the Judiciary Committee voted to approve the Act 10-2 on Friday.

The bill repeals the current medical marijuana law and starts over with a stricter set of regulations.

Law enforcement and the medical community generally support the bill, while many patients and those wanting complete repeal oppose it. Under the bill, the Public Service Commission would be charged with regulating the industry.

"The Commission has a full plate of utility regulatory issues with numerous important cases either before us now or expected in the near future," Bill Gallagher, chair of the PSC, said. "Adding the role of state licensing authority as contemplated under this bill would distract the agency from its core mission."

The date for the hearing by the full Senate has not yet been set. The title of the bill, which uses the word "therapeutic" rather than "medical," is deliberate, according to the sponsor of the measure, MT State Senator Jeff Essman, R-Billings.

"I'm not going to refer to it in terms of medical marijuana. It's up to the federal drug administration to decide what medicine is, to define what medicine is," Essman said. "We are calling it a therapy here because we're not going to provide it with the protections of calling it medicine."

The new bill cracks down on chronic pain patients, making it more difficult for them to get a marijuana card, and also states that marijuana growing operations can't make a profit.

"I feel the system that is in this bill is consistent with what they voted for, a very small system that is designed to help people with severe conditions, and not promote the use of the product and make it more accessible to the youth of our state," Essman said.

MT State Senator Cliff Larsen, D-Missoula, says the most critical change is that the bill eliminates all storefronts. "I think this is a little more rigid and confining and narrow than what we saw in House Bill 68," Larson said.

Essmann said he is optimistic that when the House sees that the bill includes a repeal of the old system, they will support it.

Click here to read the full text of the bill.

NewsHawk: Jim Behr: 420 MAGAZINE
Source: KPAX.com
Author: Marnee Banks
Copyright: 2011 KPAX.com
Contact: KPAX.com
Website: MT Senate committee approves Therapeutic Marijuana Act
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