Montana to mush patients

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Bill takes money out of the business

1 oz? Are you kidding? -UA

Tuesday, May 10

By RICHARD HANNERS Hungry Horse News

A reform bill that takes the money out of the medical marijuana business and aims to sharply reduce the number of Montanans who can qualify to use medical marijuana has angered both medical marijuana providers and consumers.

Senate Bill 423 in its final amended version was approved 78-17 by the Montana House, with Reps. Jerry O’Neil, R-Columbia Falls, and Rep. Keith Regier, R-Kalispell, in favor. The Senate approved the bill 35-15, with Sens. Ryan Zinke, R-Whitefish, and Bruce Tutvedt, R-Kalispell, in favor.

The bill limits the number of cardholding consumers that a marijuana grower or provider of “marijuana-infused” products, such as candies or baked items, can serve to three. That’s the total number whether the provider is both a grower and a provider of marijuana-infused products, or if the provider is also a consumer. Currently, some providers represent hundreds of cardholders.

Registered cardholders are limited to possessing four mature plants, 12 seedlings and one ounce of usable marijuana. A provider is limited to the same numbers for each cardholder the provider supplies with marijuana. Opponents say a provider cannot sustain a grow operation with those numbers.

Providers will no longer be allowed to charge for the marijuana they supply to cardholding consumers, other than the cost of application and renewal fees. Medical marijuana also cannot be consumed in public places or in plain view, and employers can prohibit employees from consuming medical marijuana at the workplace, the bill states.

Medical conditions that qualify cardholders for medical marijuana use have been tightened up. Doctors who prescribe marijuana for cardholders can charge for an examination, but examinations cannot be conducted over the telephone or Internet.

Gov. Brian Schweitzer earlier vetoed a House bill that would have repealed the Medical Marijuana Act, which was approved by voters in 2004. Schweitzer, who is not expected to sign the reform bill, agreed that something needs to be done about the current “wild, wild west” medical marijuana industry and said he won’t veto SB 423.

Concerned, however, that the new bill would limit access for people who need medical marijuana, and calling the bill “unconstitutional on its face,” the governor presented a number of amendments on April 28 before the legislature adjourned.

A legislative panel accepted Schweitzer’s suggestions that two physicians should sign off on a minor’s use of medical marijuana, that the names of cardholders should not be handed over to local law enforcement, and that reasonable hours should be set for inspection of providers’ facilities. They rejected, however, Schweitzer’s suggestion that providers should be allowed to supply 25 cardholders instead of three and that providers should be allowed to charge for medical marijuana.

The bill will go into effect on July 1. Growers and providers of marijuana-infused products are required at that time to turn in to law enforcement officials any marijuana they have that exceeds the new regulations.

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