Pubdate: Sat, 06 Oct 2012
Source: Missoulian (MT)
Copyright: 2012 Missoulian
Author: Gwen Florio


Let's start by clearing up any confusion about Initiative 124.

Voter approval would cement restrictions on medical marijuana 
approved by the 2011 Legislature.

Rejection would restore the 2004 voter-approved law that legalized 
the medical use of marijuana in Montana.

So - for 124 is for extensive restrictions. Against ditches them in 
favor of the less severe 2004 law.

"Trying to explain what will happen under (the initiative) is a 
little bit ridiculous," said Bob Brigham, campaign manager for 
Patients for Reform, Not Repeal. "It's tough to convince people that 
it will actually be that bad."

That's because the medical marijuana users who would most be affected 
won't see the results of last year's restrictions until after the election.

A court challenge delayed several of the 2011 law's key provisions, 
including a ban on paying providers of medical marijuana, and on a 
three-plant limit per cardholder for providers.

Brigham's group sees those as both onerous and impractical. Although 
the 2011 law allows patients to grow their own cannabis, not 
everybody has a green thumb, he said.

"And there's the timeline. You get an awful diagnosis, you don't want 
to think, 'Well, I'll start growing some marijuana now and come 
harvest time, then I can start chemo,' " he said.

Last month, the Montana Supreme Court reversed the lower court's 
temporary injunction on the 2011 law.

James Goetz of Bozeman, the attorney representing the Montana 
Cannabis Industry Association, vowed to take the case back to 
District Court but said then he didn't think the court would consider 
it before the election.

Playing devil's advocate to his own concerns, Brigham said that the 
back-and-forth of court action - The restrictions are in place! 
They're not! They're back in place! - is frustrating, "and when 
people get frustrated, they throw their hands up in the air and vote no."


The ballot language is indeed confusing, notes an email blast from 
the pro-Initiative 124 group Safe Community Safe Kids and 
redistributed by the Montana Cannabis Industry Association as a way 
to rally its own supporters to vote against I-124.

The Billings-based Safe Community Safe Kids' email reminds readers 
that the initiative keeps in place the 2011 legislation that 
restricted medical marijuana production, distribution and use and 
says, "Vote for SB423 or Montana will revert back to having the 
uncontrolled, lawless, rapidly growing marijuana industry we 
experienced prior to the passing of SB423."

Missoula City Councilman Dick Haines has looked at the issue from both sides.

As a Republican legislator about a decade ago, he said, he backed a 
plan to allow medical marijuana to be sold through pharmacies. "I 
thought that made sense ... but it didn't fly," he said. "It was one 
of the few things that Ron Erickson and I saw eye-to-eye on." 
Erickson is a liberal Democrat.

But Haines was no fan of how the 2004 medical marijuana initiative played out.

"I thought it got away from us," he said. " ... When the (2011) 
Legislature calmed it down and put restrictions on it, I thought, 
'That's fine.' "

The number of medical marijuana dispensaries exploded around Montana 
after a 2009 U.S. Justice Department memo that some saw as 
discouraging federal prosecutions. Although 17 states have legalized 
the medical use of marijuana, it's still illegal under federal law.

The "calming" - medical marijuana proponents call it "chilling" - 
effect actually was provided by widespread federal raids in 2011 that 
shut down about two dozen of the larger medical marijuana businesses 
around Montana.

Whatever the cause, Haines - whose only interest now is as a citizen 
- - welcomed the effect. And while he said the 2011 law might not be 
perfect, he doesn't see a new initiative as the best way to fix it.

"The trouble (with an initiative) is that it really doesn't get 
vetted, really hammered, to see if everything works," he said. 
"People say, 'The Legislature takes so long.' But when you go that 
route, a lot of people have looked at it and a lot of people have 
talked about it."



In 2004, Montana voters approved I-148, creating a medical marijuana 
program for patients with debilitating medical conditions. Senate 
Bill 423, passed by the 2011 Legislature, repeals I-148 and enacts a 
new medical marijuana program, which includes: permitting patients to 
grow marijuana or designate a provider; limiting each marijuana 
provider to three patients; prohibiting marijuana providers from 
accepting anything of value in exchange for services or products; 
granting local governments authority to regulate marijuana providers; 
establishing specific standards for demonstrating chronic pain; and 
reviewing the practices of doctors who certify marijuana use for 25 
or more patients in a 12-month period.

If Senate Bill 423 is affirmed by the voters, there will be no fiscal 
impact because the legislature has funded the costs of its 
implementation. If Senate Bill 423 is rejected by the voters, there 
may be a small savings to the State.

FOR Senate Bill 423, a bill which repeals I-148 and enacts a new 
medical marijuana program.

AGAINST Senate Bill 423, a bill which repeals I-148 and enacts a new 
medical marijuana program. A vote against Senate Bill 423 will restore I-148.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom