Pubdate: Tue, 28 Jun 2016
Source: Bozeman Daily Chronicle (MT)
Copyright: 2016 Associated Press


HELENA, Mont. (AP) - The U.S. Supreme Court said Monday it won't hear 
an appeal challenging a Montana law that limits medical marijuana 
providers to selling the drug to a maximum of three patients each, 
dealing a blow to advocates who are attempting to delay enforcement of the law.

The nation's high court let stand a Montana Supreme Court ruling that 
upheld key provisions of a state law passed in 2011 that rolled back 
much of the 2004 voter-approved initiative legalizing medicinal 
marijuana. The state Supreme Court ordered those provisions to take 
effect Aug. 31, more than five years after the Montana Legislature 
passed the bill.

The Montana Cannabis Industry Association, which sued to block the 
law, said the rollbacks would force the closure of dispensaries and 
leave patients without a legal way to obtain the drug.

"The consequences are serious, particularly for cancer patients and 
those in hospice care," said the group's spokeswoman, Kate Cholewa.

The advocacy organization previously asked District Judge James 
Reynolds to delay the Aug. 31 enforcement date until either the U.S. 
Supreme Court decides whether to take up the matter or until the 
November general election.

The organization is proposing a ballot initiative asking voters to 
lift the three-patient limit for providers and further expand access 
to medical marijuana. The group's representatives say they have 
submitted enough signatures to place the measure on the ballot, but 
those signatures must be certified by the Secretary of State's office.

"We feel optimistic of success in November," Cholewa said. "Montanans 
want an accountable, responsible program for medical marijuana 
access. It would foolish to shut the program down and make people 
with debilitating illnesses suffer unnecessarily."

The Montana attorney general's office, which defended the 2011 
restrictions in court, opposes further delay in enforcing the 
provisions. State attorneys said in a court filing the only 
legitimate reason for another delay would be to let the U.S. Supreme 
Court decide whether to take up the case.

Attorney general spokesman John Barnes did not have an immediate 
comment on the high court's decision Monday.
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