Tracy Elizabeths

Montana Supreme Court Delays MMJ Program Restrictions

Montana’s Supreme Court will delay enforcing the severe medical marijuana restrictions it upheld in a February ruling until Aug. 31.

In that case, the court ruled in favor of a Senate Bill 423 – a 2011 state law that limited dispensaries to supplying cannabis to just three patients.

State Health officials argued for the delay on the grounds that it would take them at least four months to update the registry and notify patients, according to the Associated Press report. Chief Justice Mike McGrath, who was in the majority for the February decision, wrote that “immediate implementation of the court’s opinion will cause serious disruption” of the medical marijuana program, and allowed the delay.

The Montana Cannabis Industry Association had challenged the February decision, saying it would leave patients without legal access to their medicine and force dispensaries to close.

“This is devastating for cancer patients, seizure victims, people in hospice, and other Montanans and their families across the state,” Kate Cholewa, an association spokesperson, said.

Advocates are hoping to rebuild the system decimated by the ruling through a signature drive for a new initiative, I-82, which would appear on November’s ballot.

The initiative would undo the three-person limit and add post-traumatic stress disorder to the list of approved conditions for cannabis therapy. I-82 also aims to establish licensing fees to pay for the program, require licensing for providers and calls for yearly dispensary inspections.

Medical marijuana infrastructure was permitted in Montana following a 2004 initiative. The legislature all but gutted the program by passing SB 423 in 2011, but key provisions, such as the three patient limit, went unenforced as it underwent legal challenges.

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