Pubdate: Fri, 01 Jul 2011
Source: Helena Independent Record (MT)
Copyright: 2011 Helena Independent Record
Author: Charles S. Johnson, IR State Bureau 


A Helena district judge on Thursday temporarily blocked from taking
effect today some of what the medical marijuana industry deemed the
most onerous parts of the more restrictive law passed by the 2011

However, District Judge James Reynolds refused to temporarily block
implementation of the entire law as the Montana Cannabis Industry
Association and other plaintiffs had sought.

Reynolds temporarily struck these major provisions of the law and in
so doing, returned the law to what it had been before:

- -- Forbidding medical marijuana providers (formerly called caregivers)
from charging patients for medical pot as they could previously. By
his ruling, providers can continue to charge patients for medical marijuana.

- -- Limiting to three the number of patients (known as cardholders) a
provider may grow for, while the current law had no limits. Reynolds'
ruling will allow providers to sell medical marijuana to as many
patients as they wish.

"The ban on providers receiving compensation and limiting the number
of cardholders that each provider can serve will certainly limit the
number of willing providers and will thereby deny the access of
Montanans otherwise eligible for medical marijuana to this legal
product and thereby deny these persons this fundamental right of
seeking their health in a lawful manner," Reynolds wrote.

Reynolds added: "By these provisions, the Legislature is attempting to
make it as difficult and as inconvenient for persons eligible under
state law to use medical marijuana to obtain this legally authorized

- -- Allowing local and state law enforcement officials to make
unannounced inspections of the premises of where providers grow
medical marijuana. Under his ruling, these searches will not be
allowed for the time being.

- -- Requiring that physicians who recommend medical marijuana for more
than 25 patients in any 12-month period be automatically subject to a
review by the state Board of Medical Examiners at the physician's
cost. His ruling will maintain the status quo in which physicians can
recommend medical marijuana to as many patients as they deem
reasonable medically.

"The court is unaware of and has not been shown where any person in
any other licensed and lawful industry in Montana -- be he a barber, an
accountant, a lawyer or a doctor -- who, providing a legal product or
service, is denied the right to charge for that service or is limited
in the number of people he or she can serve," Reynolds wrote.

- -- Banning any advertising for medical marijuana. Reynolds ruled that
medical marijuana advertising is allowed.

"Medical marijuana is, under this law, a legal substance," the judge
said. "Advertising concerning it cannot be banned consistent with
First Amendment principles."

Lawyers for Attorney General Steve Bullock conceded that temporarily
enjoining most of these provisions wouldn't affect the integrity of
the reset of the law.

The temporary injunction of certain sections of the bill will stand
until the court has a hearing and decides whether to issue a permanent

After Gov. Brian Schweitzer this year vetoed a bill that would have
repealed the voter-passed 2004 initiative that legalized medical
marijuana in Montana, lawmakers passed another bill that sought to
impose some tougher restrictions on an industry that many considered
out of control.

Montana has seen an explosion of medical marijuana cardholders from
4,000 in September 2009 to 31,500 as of this May. The cardholders
skyrocketed after the Obama administration's Justice Department said
in the fall of 2009 it wouldn't prosecute people who use or distribute
medical marijuana in states that had legalized it. The administration
is reconsidering the policy, and federal agencies have conducted raids
on a number of medical marijuana growing and distribution operations
in Montana this year.

Another major factor that led to the escalating number of medical
marijuana cards here were "cannabis caravans" that signed up thousands
of patients around the state. People saw physicians, often from out of
state and sometimes by video conferencing, or only a few minutes at
times before obtaining recommendations for cards. That practice has
been banned by the Board of Medical Examiners.

It wasn't a complete victory for the Montana Cannabis Industry
Association, which asked that the entire law be stricken temporarily.
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MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.