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Tougher Medical Marijuana Rules Coming to Montana

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MISSOULA- Medical marijuana reform in Montana will become law.

Governor Brian Schweitzer says he won't sign the bill limiting medical marijuana patients and ending medical cannabis businesses, but he won't veto it either. Bills passed by the Legislature become law if the Governor does not act within 10 days of receiving the legislation.

Schweitzer had been critical of the overhaul bill that passed the Legislature, but says he believes the current law allows recreational users to smoke marijuana. The new law will ban medical marijuana providers from charging patients for marijuana and limit the number of patients to just three. The new law also will limit who qualifies for medical cannabis.

"We need regulation, we don't need prohibition. The bill as it's written would be enacted July 1st [and] would bring back the black market which we have tried to eliminate with reliable, honest people that are trying to help patients," Jim Gingery with the Montana Medical Growers Association said. "Montana could've led the country and instead we are the laughing stock of the country"

Gingery added that they will put together a referendum to overturn this law should Governor Schweitzer stick to his decision.

When Senate Bill 423 becomes law, local storefronts will be shut down, so we headed out on Saturday to chat with several caregivers and patients, to see how the new regulations would affect them.

Some of the concerns being raised about the change in the law include who is going to take on the expense of growing medical marijuana if they can't make a profit from selling the plant and how many patients will still be able to afford their medicine if prices go up?

"We started this business under the current law. And we did it legally. We've been inspected by everybody. And now they're trying to change the law," explained Golden Leaf Caregivers owner Josh Fox.

Fox will now have to shut down his business along with every other dispensary owner in Montana come July 1st.

Several caregivers in the Flathead Valley told us the changes would hurt them, their patients and even local businesses not affiliated with the controversial medicinal product.

"It's the landlords that own the buildings that have dispensaries in it are out. The people that are renting warehouses or facilities to grow marijuana, they're losing tenants," Glacier Health manager Ian Baker said.

SB 423 would limit the number of patients one caregiver can have to three and also ensure that caregivers cannot make a profit off of their crops.

"Once you do obtain a medical marijuana card, you either have to produce your own or find someone who will grow it for you for free. In a perfect world, I'm sure a lot of patients would really appreciate that, but this isn't a perfect world and things aren't for free," Baker commented.

"I'm only making minimum wage now. So if the price goes up, I have to find work that will increase my income so that I can afford it,"patient Michael Bryant told us.

Governor Schweitzer may not like SB 423, but he says it's a better alternative to the current law. He also plans to look to the next Legislature to increase access for medical marijuana patients.

But caregivers say that by then, irreparable damage will be done to businesses all across Montana.

"They're not going to be able to just re-start up. The start up capital has already been invested," Baker said.

"I do believe we need to change the law, but this has gone way to far," Fox concluded.

Despite what Governor Schweitzer has told the press, he could still veto the reform bill. He has 10 days from the day the bill hits his desk to make a decision on it.


News Hawk- Jacob Ebel 420 MAGAZINE
Source: kpax.com
Author: Robin O'Day, Laura Wilson
Contact: Contact Us
Copyright: KPAX.com
Website: Tougher medical marijuana rules coming to Montana
 
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