Pubdate: Wed, 12 Sep 2012
Source: Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA)
Copyright: 2012 Associated Press
Author: Matt Gouras


(AP) - A November ballot initiative asks voters to reject the 
Legislature's restrictive law and return to the original law enacted 
by voters in 2004.

HELENA  The Montana Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that restrictions on 
medical marijuana sales do not violate the constitutional rights of 
registered users or providers, overturning a lower judge's decision 
to block part of lawmakers' restrictive rewrite of state regulations.

The justices ruled that the portion of the 2011 state law that limits 
the number of patients per provider to three and prohibits those 
providers from making a profit does not violate the Montana 
Constitution's right to privacy or to pursue employment and health.

Last year, District Judge Jim Reynolds blocked four provisions of the 
law from taking effect.

Medical marijuana advocates had argued that the new law was an 
unconstitutional violation of registered patients' right to pursue 
good health and privacy, while also violating the providers' right to 
pursue employment. The plaintiffs had asked the high court to expand 
Reynolds' decision and block the entire state law.

But the Supreme Court said in its 6-1 decision that the Legislature 
was within its rights to gut the voter-approved initiative that 
brought medical pot to the state. The court said rights to health and 
privacy do not protect medical marijuana use.

"In pursuing one's own health, an individual has a fundamental right 
to obtain and reject medical treatment. But, this right does not 
extend to give a patient a fundamental right to use any drug, 
regardless of its legality," the opinion by Justice Michael Wheat 
said. "Thus, we conclude, in pursuing health, an individual does not 
have a fundamental, affirmative right of access to a particular drug."

The Legislature enacted the law as a reaction to public concern over 
the rapid growth of a medical marijuana industry that included retail 
storefronts, thousands of providers and tens of thousands of patients.

Even after Reynolds' decision, other restrictions in the state's 
crackdown remained in place. That, along with a decision by the U.S. 
Department of Justice to prosecute medical marijuana growers under 
federal law, led to a severe reduction in the state's medical 
marijuana industry.

Some aspects of Reynolds' decision were not challenged, such as his 
move to block a portion that allowed warrantless searches of medical 
marijuana premises.

The Montana Supreme Court returned the case to Reynolds for further 
review, telling him that the state law does not face the strict 
constitutional hurdles he had originally applied.

The high court said the state only needs to prove that its new law is 
"rationally related to a legitimate government interest."

The justices pointed out that medical marijuana is illegal under federal law.
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