Pubdate: Fri, 15 Feb 2013
Source: Helena Independent Record (MT)
Copyright: 2013 Helena Independent Record
Author: Larry Mayer


In short order, a House committee on Friday rejected and then tabled 
four bills intended to fix parts of the 2011 medical marijuana law 
that a district judge has temporarily blocked.

The House Human Services Committee voted down House bills 340-343, by 
Rep. Kelly McCarthy, D-Billings, on identical 12-4 votes. All 10 
Republicans and two Democrats opposed the bills, while four Democrats 
supported them.

During the discussion, a sharp division emerged among committee 
members over medical marijuana and the 2011 law, Senate Bill 423. It 
greatly restricted its use and squeezed the profits out of what had 
been a booming industry here.

Chairman David Howard, R-Park City, a former FBI agent, criticized 
marijuana as "a joke."

"This stuff is disguised as medicine," Howard said. "It makes you 
delusional. It is psychologically addicting and physiologically 
addicting and it absorbs in your fat cells, which is the most 
dangerous drug there is. This is not a drug. It's a poison."

Howard told how he was the operations chief against marijuana 
planting in California in the 1980s, organizing and cutting down 
thousands of illegal plants.

Rep. Amanda Curtis, D-Butte, said the initiative that legalized 
medical marijuana here passed in 2004 "without any real sideboards at all."

"The million-mile high sideboards that were put on with SB423 made 
its practical use as a medicine illegal," she said. "The injunctions 
put on the court facilitated limited use, and we saw the number of 
cardholders drop from 30,000 to 8,000 with those injunctions. We 
would have had zero without those injunctions."

She told how her medical marijuana had helped alleviate pain for her 
husband's elderly grandmother, a deeply religious woman who lived in 
Washington state, after she fell and broke her hip.

McCarthy had tried to repair the 2011 law by reversing provisions in 
the law that District Judge James Reynolds of Helena temporarily 
enjoined in January. The judge did the same in June 2011, but the 
Montana Supreme Court reversed him and ordered him to rehear the 
matter, using a stricter legal standard.HB340 would have eliminated 
the provision in the law requiring the Board of Medical Examiners to 
automatically review any physicians who have issued written 
certification for medical marijuana for more than 25 people in any 
12-month period.

HB341 would have allowed medical marijuana providers to be paid for 
providing pot to cardholders. The 2011 law forbade compensation.

HB342 would have removed the three-person limit on the number of 
cardholders that medical marijuana providers could serve. There had 
been no limit previously.

HB343 would have eliminated from the law's requirements that 
providers keep records and its provision allowing for automatic inspections.

In a related development, Attorney General Tim Fox said Friday he 
would not appeal Reynolds' ruling, but wants the trial to proceed.

"Judge Reynolds' injunction order is preliminary and does not rule 
upon or address the merits of the case," said Fox's spokesman, John 
Barnes. "Rather than appeal that interim order and cause further 
delay, Attorney General Fox will proceed to trial and will vigorously 
defend Montana's laws."

Afterward, McCarthy said he had committed during his campaign, if he 
won, to help members of the Montana Cannabis Information Association 
address the challenges they were facing under SB423.

"Regardless of federal supremacy, we address only Montana law in the 
Legislature, and these folks are not breaking any Montana laws," 
McCarthy said. "For some patients, marijuana is much safer and better 
at managing their illnesses than pharmacological alternatives."
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