Pubdate: Thu, 15 Sep 2011
Source: Missoula Independent (MT)
Copyright: 2011 Missoula Independent
Author: Matthew Frank


There's good news and bad news for the state's medical marijuana
patients and providers. The good news is that petitioners have
gathered more than 30,000 signatures to place a referendum of Senate
Bill 423--the Montana Legislature's measure severely restricting the
medical marijuana industry--on the ballot in November 2012. That's more
than the required 24,337 signatures due by Sept. 30, though county
election offices haven't verified all of them.

The bad news is that petitioners have all but given up on the effort
to have SB 423 suspended until voters weigh in. That requires as many
as 43,247 signatures, and they must come from at least 15 percent of
voters in each of at least 51 of the legislative representative
districts, meaning a number of the 30,000 signatures already collected
likely wouldn't count toward the total.

Rose Habib, of the petitioning group Patients for Reform--Not Repeal,
says she and fellow marijuana advocates are "pleased that we're able
to show the legislators that they are not representing what the voters
want," but considers it "tragic" that SB 423 will stay on the books
until next November.

That's not necessarily the case. The Montana Cannabis Industry
Association continues its legal challenge to the constitutionality of
SB 423. In late June, District Judge James Reynolds issued a
preliminary injunction, blocking parts of SB 423 from going into
effect. The Montana Attorney General has since appealed the ruling to
the Montana Supreme Court. Missoula attorney Chris Lindsey, who
specializes in marijuana cases, expects the MTCIA to cross appeal,
challenging SB 423's severability clause, which says that if any
portion of the law is deemed unconstitutional, the rest remains law.

"If you find enough problems with SB 423, does it make sense to even
call it a law anymore?" Lindsey asks. "So the potential is there for
the Supreme Court to have enough issues with SB 423 that the entire
thing is suspended. It's another route back to I-148"--the
vaguely-written citizen initiative that created the Medical Marijuana
Act in 2004.

With MTCIA's case far from being settled, it appears the state's
medical marijuana laws will remain in flux until next November--and
perhaps long after, if Montana voters reject SB 423. Lindsey warns
patients and providers that, in the meantime, the legal landscape is
"something of a minefield." 
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MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.