UPDATE: 5-14-2011, Medical Marijuana Reform Bill, SB423, is NOW LAW, NO VETO from Governor Schweitzer!

May 14, 2011

Dear Montana Biotech:

It’s been 10 days since S.B. 423 was transmitted to Gov. Brian Schweitzer, thus Montana’s “repeal in disguise” bill became law without his signature last night at midnight.

Under S.B. 423, larger marijuana-growing operations and all dispensaries must shut down by July 1, and caregivers must instead register as providers starting June 1. Patients will have to grow their own or obtain it for free from a provider who can grow for only three people. A garden may not be shared, except for by close relations, and law enforcement may conduct unannounced inspections. Starting today, provider advertising of any kind (even websites) is prohibited.

Possession limits will be four mature plants, 12 seedlings, and one ounce of marijuana, and everyone must always carry an ID card. Patients’ existing ID cards are valid until expiration, but invasive new rules will apply to renewals. Doctors who certify 25 patients will have to pay to be investigated. Check out this summary for more details.

The Montana Cannabis Industry Association filed a referendum petition today to place S.B. 423 on the November 2012 ballot and is trying to get signatures to get the law suspended before its worst provisions go into effect on July 1.

Sincerely,

Noah Mamber
Legislative Analyst
Marijuana Policy Project

http:/www.KULR8.com

By Nicole Grigg

Story Published: May 13, 2011 at 10:54 PM MDT

Story Updated: May 13, 2011 at 10:54 PM MDT

BILLINGS – At midnight on Friday, the medical marijuana reform bill will become law. Governor Brian Schweitzer says he will let it become law without his signature. There are currently about 4,000 caregivers in Montana serving more than 30,000 people.

Watch The Video

Caregivers would be allowed a maximum of three patients, two of whom must be related to the seller. It would do away with storefronts as of July 1, and caregivers would not be able to charge for their services. It would also more narrowly define conditions that qualify for treatment with medical marijuana.

“This will become law without my signature. I think it’s a big mistake. Law enforcement doesn’t like it. Patients don’t like it. It’s a poorly written bill. It’s difficult to understand, but it’s going to be the law until it’s repealed,” said Schweitzer.

The Department of Public Health and Human Services said it would continue issuing medical marijuana cards under the current guidelines until June 20th. Even though the bill‘s author, Billings Senator Jeff Essman, says that would be illegal because the bill immediately repeals the agency’s authority to register patients.

“Cards can start being reissued on June 1, which is only 12 business days away under the new stricter provisions of the law. I’m quite concerned about the Department of Public Health and Human Services and the administration ignoring the intentions of the people of Montana and the legislature,” said Essman.

Spokesman for the health department, Jon Ebelt says the bill is unclear about how the transition is supposed to go. Ebelt says several hundred applications for medical marijuana cards are currently awaiting approval. He says current cardholders won’t have to apply for a new card under the new regulations until their current card expires.

Ebelt said starting next week the website will post frequently asked questions about how transitions will take effect.

As of Friday afternoon, the Montana attorney general’s office said a Bozeman law firm had filed a temporary restraining order in Helena District Court on behalf of Montana Cannabis Industry Association (MTCIA). It seeks to prevent a part of the bill that restricts advertising of the drug from taking effect.

The AG’s office said it anticipates the group will file a lawsuit Monday after the bill has become law.

In a statement the AG’s office said, “While not every provision that ended up being included in this legislation was advocated for by the attorney general, we will actively and aggressively defend this law against any challenge, as is our constitutional responsibility.”

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