Expect the Montana Legislature to crack down on medical marijuana, State Rep. Jon Sesso (D-Butte) told the Montana Bar Association on Friday.
Sesso, the House minority leader, said he expects “significant reform,” but not outright repeal of the 2004 Medical Marijuana Act, approved by an overwhelming 62 percent of Montana voters. He spoke to the lawyers’ group in Butte, reports Tim Trainor at the Montana Standard.
“The abusers will be on notice, probably in the next 30 days,” Sesso said. “If you aren’t legitimately sick, you are not going to be able to use.”
|Photo: The Montana Standard|
|Rep. Jon Sesso claims that legislators recognize abuse of Montana’s medical marijuana law is “overriding its merits” and that “reform is necessary”|
Sesso said legislators recognize that abuse of the medical marijuana law is “overriding its merits” and that “reform is necessary.”
Several bills are working their way through the Senate and more are moving through the House. Sesso said he expects a bill combining some of their elements will be enacted this session. Details about how the final bill will look — and how restrictive it will be — remain unknown for now.
“Today’s report will be essentially obsolete tomorrow,” said Sesso. “Twenty-four hours means a lot in the legislative session and things are moving as we speak.”
Some of the bills being debated include provisions for making it illegal for felons to become caregivers, forbidding those on probation from using medical marijuana, clarifying the conditions that qualify for cannabis, prohibiting physicians from having “financial ties” to the marijuana industry and requiring product labeling.
Sesso claimed the problems with medical marijuana law “snuck up” on the Legislature because, at first, the program was working as planned.
Five years after the referendum passed, in 2009, 1,500 Montanans used medical marijuana. But in 2010, an “explosion” of touring clinics and doctors — many led by the controversial and polarizing figure Jason Christ — gave out thousands of medical marijuana recommendations. More than 4,000 patients were getting authorized every month.
That, Sesso claims, is when he realized there was a problem with the system.
Claiming he still wants “legitimate users” to have access to marijuana if they wish, Sesso warned the thousands of patients that signed on in the wave of 2010 — many of whom he claimed cited “vague health problems” — should prepare to do without legal access to cannabis.
That could result in thousands of new caregivers finding that medical marijuana isn’t going to be the money-making industry they may have imagined, the Standard reports. Caregivers may see their number of patients restricted.
More federal raids like those of last week could have a big impact, as well.
“The word is out that the federal government is not going to make medical marijuana a low priority, but will enforce the law as it is intended — as a Tier 1 drug subject to prosecution,” Sesso said, referring to marijuana’s federal classification as a Schedule I drug with a “high potential for abuse” and “no medical benefits.”