Pubdate: Tue, 13 Dec 2011 Source: Missoulian (MT) Copyright: 2011 Missoulian Contact: http://www.missoulian.com/ Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/720 Author: Charles S. Johnson, Missoulian State Bureau JASON CHRIST FIGHTS 2011 MONTANA MEDICAL POT LAW HELENA - Jason Christ, the Missoula businessman who signed up thousands of Montanans for medical marijuana cards through "cannabis caravans," has filed a lawsuit challenging the 2011 state law that makes it harder to get medical pot. Christ, who owns the Montana Caregivers Network, sued the state last week in state District Court in Missoula. Acting as his own attorney, Christ asked District Judge Ed McLean to strike the law as unconstitutional on several grounds and prevent the state from enforcing it. Earlier this year, the Montana Cannabis Industry Association and others challenged the same law in District Court in Helena. In June, District Judge Jim Reynolds temporarily blocked some provisions of the new law from taking effect. Christ was not part of that lawsuit. The state attorney general's office, which defended the law, appealed portions of Reynolds' ruling to the Montana Supreme Court. The Cannabis Industry Association has said it will file a cross-appeal. State Justice Department spokeswoman Jennifer McKee said Tuesday the state had not yet been served in Christ's lawsuit. "We have a copy of the complaint Mr. Christ filed and we will review it to decide the appropriate response in light of the pending appeal before the Montana Supreme Court and any new issues raised in the complaint," she said. Opponents of the law also have obtained enough signatures to put it on the 2012 ballot as a referendum, giving voters the right to decide whether to retain or reject the law. Christ has been the perhaps most controversial figure statewide in the lengthy medical marijuana controversy - whether it was for his traveling clinics or his lighting up a two-foot pipe to smoke his medical pot on the Capitol lawn. In the lawsuit filed Dec. 6, Christ said the law violates his constitutional rights to equal protection, due process, dignity and his right to pursue life's basic necessities, including personal health and to freedom of speech. His lawsuit focuses on the 2011 law's provision that prohibits people under state Corrections Department supervision from obtaining medical pot. Christ said thousands of individuals fall in this category, including hundreds served by his company. Christ said he suffers from a debilitating medical condition and has had a medical marijuana card in Montana for three years under the 2004 initiative that legalized the use of pot for some medical conditions. He said he has never violated the 2004 law and hasn't been charged with any drug-related offense. Christ has said he obtained the medical marijuana card to treat Crohn's disease and hemorrhoids. In the lawsuit, Christ acknowledged he is a defendant in criminal proceedings and, said, if convicted, he would be under the Corrections Department supervision and couldn't continue to obtain medical marijuana to treat his "serious medical condition." Christ is a familiar figure in the Missoula County Courthouse, where he's filed a blizzard of motions in several ongoing legal cases. Christ faces an intimidation charge in connection with an alleged bomb threat against a Missoula Verizon store in August 2010. He was supposed to go on trial in that case Jan. 4, but on Tuesday, Missoula County District Court Judge Karen Townsend agreed to push that date back. In addition, Christ - acting as his own attorney - has filed several lawsuits against former employees and business associates in the last couple of years. At least one of those cases was filed in response to a lawsuit against him by former employees. In addition, there are a number of protection orders filed both by and against Christ in Missoula Municipal Court. Last week, the court awarded a man who once owned a business adjoining Christ's a one-year protection order. A Missoula city court has prohibited Christ from being within 1,500 feet of the University of Montana campus, a move that he says has blocked his access to the UM law library to do his legal research. That denies him the constitutional guarantee to represent his causes in court, Christ said. Restricting access to medical marijuana for those under the Corrections Department's supervision "is unconstitutional because it intrudes into the sanctity of the patient-physician relationship and results in a profound chilling effect upon the ability of those in medical need to seek professional care when it comes to access to medical marijuana," Christ said. Christ could not be reached for comment. The 2011 state law has dramatically reduced the number of people holding medical marijuana cards. The number has dropped by one-third, from 30,036 people in June to 19,239 in November, according to the state's registry. The number of medical marijuana caregivers, who grow and sell the pot, has dropped from a peak of nearly 5,000 in March to 383 in November. - --- MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.