Back in 2011, the state of Montana saw a pretty big backlash against medical marijuana patients, caregivers and collectives and state lawmakers approved a ban on the small commercial medical cannabis industry and limited caregivers to three patients. Thankfully those laws were blocked in favor of the medical marijuana industry on appeal, however the state Supreme Court overruled that decision and has forced the judge in the case to reexamine his ruling.
Yesterday an attorney representing patients and collectives argued that the restrictions should remain blocked and that the proposed rules would keep patients from accessing something the state has deemed legal.
Attorney Jim Goetz of Bozememan said that the legislative intent of banning retail sales of medical marijuana and limiting caregivers was to cut back on what the legislature saw was an unnecessarily large number of patients. At its peak there were 30,000 patients on the Montana medical marijuana registry.
Goetz also says that after the 2011 restrictions were initially passed – and then rejected – the patient numbers dropped The rules, even when blocked, had the effect the legislature wanted, he says. In other words: the legislature scared everyone with their ban that never actually went into place, and now that the ban might actually become law this attorney is doing something about it.
“We have kind of an experiment, we have actual evidence that certain features of the (law) were not necessary to accomplish its goals,” Goetz argued in a Helena court on Tuesday. “The state’s own witnesses have conceded that things are not only better, but much better.”
Of course, the state is in opposition and thinks the caregiver limits and bans on retail sales need to move forward. State attorney Stuart Segrest says that all the state has to do is prove a “rational basis” for the bans and points out that marijuana’s federally illegal status is a rational reason to ban the sales in-state. Never mind that retail cannabis sales have been permitted to some degree or another by the feds in Montana and other states for years now.
Segrest also said that the intent of the legislature may have been to reduce the medical marijuana patients below their already-low numbers. Because, you know, the state legislature knows how many people truly need medical cannabis in their state and all that.
No word on when a ruling is expected.