With the next session just months away, Republican legislators are getting ready for a battle to ban medical marijuana in Montana, spurred by an explosion in the number of patients in the state.
At least two GOP lawmakers plan to introduce bills in the 2011 Legislature — which begins in January — to repeal the medical marijuana law altogether, reports Daniel Person at the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.
This spring, the Montana GOP added to its platform the belief that the state’s medical marijuana law should be either “amended or repealed,” with several Republican lawmakers putting forward repeal bills. The state Democratic Party platform does not address the issue of medical marijuana.
”The people who have contacted me, who voted for this, say this is not what they had in mind,” claimed Rep. Mike Milburn (R-Cascade), who is actively working to repeal the medical marijuana law.
“They were overwhelmingly supportive of rescinding the law and starting over,” Milburn claimed, ignoring the fact that a June newspaper poll indicates Montanans still support legalized medical marijuana in their state.
The Helena Independent Record asked readers: “If medical marijuana were put back to the public vote now, would you vote for it given the lack of regulatory framework?”
Even with the somewhat, shall we say, negatively phrased question, a healthy majority of the 247 readers responding to the unscientific poll — 138, or 56 percent — said “yes,” they would still vote for medical pot.
Another Republican is preparing a bill that would change how cannabis is distributed in the state. And a bipartisan panel now meeting how introduce a measure that could affect everything from where marijuana can be sold to the medical scrutiny faced by patients seeking medical marijuana.
“Most of us (lawmakers) are highly suspicious that a bunch of 20-year-olds are in serious need of medical marijuana because of chronic pain,” said Rep. Diane Sands (D-Missoula), who is a member of the subcommittee working on the reform bill.
More 21- to 30-year-olds hold medical marijuana cards than any other age group in Montana, according to state data. The vast majority — 13,291 — of approximately 20,000 medical marijuana patients in Montana say that “chronic or severe pain” is the reason they need cannabis.
“People are really offended by the number of people who are abusing it when people who voted for it thought they were being compassionate toward people who are ill,” said Sen. Trudi Schmidt (D-Great Falls), who also sits on the panel working on a medical marijuana bill for the upcoming session.
That bill has yet to take form, but legislators are looking into how the state can make sure only patients are smoking legally grow marijuana; how to ensure patients truly need cannabis; and how to “make it easier for police to enforce marijuana laws.”
One truly bad idea that is emerging is to contract with a single, private company to provide all the medical marijuana in the state, rather than allowing patients to grow their own or buy it from assigned providers.
So much for particular strains being more effective for specific medical conditions!
“What we’re going to try to do is get rid of the pot shop on every corner,” claimed panel member Rep. Penny Morgan (R-Billings).
The panel is considering a provision that would require patients claiming chronic pain to consult with a pain specialist before getting a “green card,” according to Sands.
Also being considered are increased fees on patients and caregivers, supposed “to cover the costs of regulating medical marijuana.”
“It has to bear its own costs,” Sands said.