Montana Lawmakers Deciding Medical Marijuana Overhaul Fate


Photo: NBC Montana

​Montana legislators have just a few days to reach compromise on a bill to “overhaul” the state’s booming medical marijuana industry. If they can’t do that, they face the prospect of the industry continuing to grow. What? An actual bright spot in the Treasure State’s dismal economy? Hurry up, guys, snuff that bitch out!

Legislators started on Monday working out the differences between the Senate and House versions of the overhaul measure, Senate Bill 423, reports
Governor Brian Schweitzer last week vetoed the Republican plan to repeal to voter-approved medical marijuana law.

“I believe the proper resolution of this unanticipated outcome is not outright repeal, but amendment to serve the original intent — to provide a medicinal option for Montanans ‘to alleviate the symptoms or effects of the patient’s debilitating medical condition,’ ” Gov. Schweitzer said, quoting the language of the original ballot initiative.

Photo: Casey Riffe/Billings Gazette
Sen. Gary Branae (D-Billings): “I really will say I’m glad the governor vetoed the repeal. I do not think it’s up to the Legislature to override what the people themselves decided”

​”I really will say I’m glad the governor vetoed the repeal,” said Sen. Gary Branae (D-Billings). “I do not think it’s up to the Legislature to override what the people themselves decided.” Branae added that he hopes the new guidelines won’t be so strict that it becomes impossible for people who could benefit from medical marijuana to get it.
But many lawmakers claim “something needs to be done” to “rein in” medical marijuana in the Big Sky State, which now has 30,000 legal cannabis patients.
And now the overhaul measure, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Jeff Essman (R-Billings), is the last chance the Legislature has to restrict medical marijuana.
“I am certain that on Monday morning, when we get together, we will be able to hammer out a good bill that gets the storefronts closed, continues to allow a small group of chronically ill people to access this product, but removes it in terms of access to young people,” Essman said.
That’s right, folks; you heard it hear first. Young Montanans apparently have absolutely no access to cannabis except through diverted pot from the medical marijuana program. If you remove safe access from patients, then teenagers won’t know where to find pot!
Great idea, Essman. What a fucking genius! That must be why no teenagers at all can find or smoke pot in the 35 states where medical marijuana is illegal.
The overhaul proposal “was used as a battering ram for partisan bickering,” writes Stephen Dockery of The Associated Press, and ended up getting passed in two completely different versions by each chamber of the Legislature.
The Senate version proposes tight doctor/patient restrictions and reducing marijuana businesses to small, nonprofit grow ops. The bill would place the Department of Labor and Industry as the state’s medicinal cannabis regulatory authority, a sticking point with some.
Meanwhile, the House version took a different approach. It would remove money from the system, require pot to be grown and given to patients free of charge, and limit providers to one patient each. The government involvement in the House version is much less than in the Senate one.
Lawmakers must now merge the two measures into one final proposal, or give up on regulating medical marijuana this session.