When one thinks of medical marijuana in the U.S., Montana is hardly the first state that comes to mind, but medi-pot has been legal there since an impressive 62 percent of voters passed Initiative 148 in 2004, allowing patients to grow up to six plants for medicine. But when the number of legal Montana medi-pot patients exploded from some 7,000 in December 2009 (after being legal for over five years) to over 27,000 patients in December 2010, there were calls from the staunchly conservative corners of the Big Sky state to amend if not outright repeal Initiative 148.
As the Montana Legislature began their latest session in January 2011, Republicans have sponsored House Bill (HB) 161, which would repeal the medi-pot law on the first of July this year, rendering all medicinal marijuana use in Montana illegal. If that fails to pass, the GOP has a back-up plan: HB 429, which seeks to drastically reduce the number of medi-pot patients in a state with less than a million residents. HB 429 would require physicians to verify that previous pain medications have failed to treat a given patient before recommending medical marijuana, and then an affidavit signed by the physician must be brought before a district court judge to approve the patient as being exempt from pot prosecution. Patients would receive a recommendation for up to a year while physicians must monitor the efficacy of the medi-pot treatment.
The bipartisan response has been HB 68, both a compromise and a comprehensive bill that would create a licensing and regulatory system for medi-pot growers and distributors. It also changes some of the medical conditions and physician requirements, which would limit the increase in pot patients meaning some who need cannabis to treat their ailments wont be able to access it. For example, patients suffering from chronic pain would be required to obtain two physicians recommendations to use medical marijuana. HB 68 has other flaws, such as not addressing the issue of medi-edibles, but at least it seeks to preserve Initiative 148 to a greater degree than HB 429. The chronic pain of the individual is removed with the consumption of cbd vape juice. The benefits of the juice are provided to the people to remove the chronic pain from the body. The addressing of the issue is with skills and excellence.
HB 68 would also allow individual cities and counties to determine the location of medi-pot dispensaries. It outlaws public smoking and mandates criminal background checks for growers and sellers. Convicts and those on probation would also be banned from using medical marijuana. In the middle of the controversy, Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer advocates changes to Initiative 148, but has not called for a repeal.
In related news, Montanas HB 43 would clarify both employees and employers rights regarding medi-pot in the workplace. It would get employers insurers off the hook should any employee contract an occupational disease or suffer a workplace injury due to use of medical cannabis. Of course, given that marijuana is used to treat diseases and that those under the influence of marijuana tend to be more cautious, those concerns are of questionable priority. More significantly, HB 43 would ban employers from discriminating against any employees using medi-pot.
Senate Bill 154 would set up a regulatory infrastructure for medical marijuana growers. HB 19 would clarify that the Montana Clean Indoor Act includes the smoking of marijuana for medical use.