Montana reconsiders law on medical marijuana
Even the advocates who backed the initiative in 2004 agreed they never envisioned a multimillion-dollar industry and lobbied for lawmakers to put restrictions on who can get a medical marijuana card and how it is sold.
Dozens of marijuana advocates and smokers told lawmakers to tread carefully before messing up an initiative voters approved.
Jim Gingery, a grower and executive director of Montana Medical Growers Association, said a repeal would put thousands of people out of work just at a time when the mainstream medical community is beginning to embrace the benefits.
“Part of the problem is that there has been no regulation for over six years. Clearly with appropriate regulation that provides stringent guidelines for caregivers, the patients will definitely benefit as well as the public at large,” he said.
Mr. Gingery said the state is at a crossroads on medical pot.
“We are either going to look at science or we are going to look at fiction,” he told the Associated Press in an interview. “We are either going into the dark ages of prohibition and reefer madness or let science move us forward.”
None of the 14 states that allow medical marijuana have repealed their laws, although some leaders in Michigan and New Mexico have suggested it may be necessary, according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
“Montana is the only state that is actually attempting to do it,” said Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the group.
Mr. Milburn, the House speaker, hopes Montana will be the first. His repeal plan is on the verge of clearing the House, the fastest-advancing bill among the handful of proposals dealing with medical marijuana this session.
Mr. Milburn said lawmakers need to cut it off now before the situation gets “completely out of hand.” He said organized crime is infiltrating the medical marijuana business, reaping millions that will be used to stop any changes in the future.
His plan may run into a roadblock in the Senate. Leading Senate Republicans are hashing out a bill that would make it harder to get a card, strictly regulate who grows pot and how they sell it and set up a state system to monitor the industry — paid for by new fees levied against the growers.
And Democrats largely oppose repeal, arguing that lawmakers should not undo a voter-approved initiative.
Then there is the governor, never afraid to use his veto pen. The Democrat won’t say which bill he likes.
Mr. Milburn said that growing number of people support his plan. “It is undermining the entire fabric of our state,” he said. “It is time to take back our state and our culture and do what’s best for Montana.”