District Court Judge James P. Reynolds late on Friday for the second time issued a Temporary Restraining Order blocking key provisions of Montana's medical marijuana law. The current law, as gutted by the GOP-controlled Legislature last session, limits providers to no more than three patients, and prohibits providers from receiving "anything of value" from patients for their services.
If the law were in full effect, very few providers could continue to operate, and the vast majority of the approximately 8,300 patients currently in the state program would be denied access to medical marijuana, according to Chris Lindsey, president of the Montana Cannabis Industry Association.
The state is prevented from enforcing these provisions until a hearing can be held in November.
|Chris Lindsey, Montana Cannabis Industry Association: "Citizens should be insulted at the waste of time and money it has cost do deal with this clearly unconstitutional law, and the position this puts the state's most vulnerable citizens"|
In making its decision on Friday, the Court found that "immediate and irreparable harm will occur to Plaintiffs and others unless a temporary restraining order is issued.... The harm is that persons who have been certified by the State as eligible for medical marijuana cards will be denied meaningful access to this medical treatment if enforcement of those portions of the Medical Marijuana Act prohibiting commercial transactions are not temporarily restrained."
"We are pleased the court understands the absurdity of the current law," said Lindsey. "On the one hand, legislators claim they are not trying to deny legitimate patients access to medical treatment, but at the same time they want to eliminate practically anyone who can actually provide it to them."
"It's a poorly kept secret that this is really repeal in disguise -even some of the bill sponsors have told us that," Lindsey said. "Citizens should be insulted at the waste of time and money it has cost to deal with this clearly unconstitutional law, and the position this puts the state's most vulnerable citizens," he said.
Following the Supreme Court's ruling earlier this week, the state's Department of Public Health and Human Services was poised to send nearly 6,000 letters to patients across the state notifying them they could no longer obtain cannabis from their licensed provider. Friday's decision means the Department will not send those letters.
The court set the matter for a hearing on November 13 at 9 a.m. in Helena, one week after the election.
"This is significant because a ballot initiative called IR-124 allows voters this year to overturn the unconstitutional law passed by the Legislature last year and demand the politicians come up with a real set of regulations that works for patients and communities," Lindsey said. "A vote against SB423 on Initiative Referendum 124 overturns repeal in disguise. This gives me hope on behalf of thousands of patients, and gives voters a chance to finally weigh in on this broken law."