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Montana Gov To Let Medical Pot Bill Become Law


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HELENA, Mont. — A medical marijuana overhaul bill that aims to reduce the number of patients and end pot businesses will become law without the signature of the governor.


Gov. Brian Schweitzer remained critical Friday of the bill that passed the Legislature on Thursday, saying he believes it will prevent access to the drug for some people who need it.


But the current law couldn't stand because of the booming marijuana trade that has resulted, and the Legislature had ruled out all the other alternatives, he said.


"Is the bill perfect? Not close," Schweitzer said. "But can I veto this thing and allow the wild, wild west to go on for the next couple of years? I don't think so."


If Schweitzer doesn't sign or veto the bill, it becomes law without his signature 10 days after he receives it.


The governor said he would have to let the bill go into effect and look to the next Legislature to increase access for patients.


"I will hold my nose and allow this to be law until the Legislature gets back to session," Schweitzer said.


Schweitzer's intentions were first reported Friday by The Bozeman Daily Chronicle.


The new law will take effect in July. It will bar pot providers from charging patients for marijuana and limit to three the number of people they can give marijuana. It also will limit who qualifies for medical marijuana and give cities and law enforcement more authority to monitor and regulate providers.


It also requires an applicant to provide strong proof of a qualifying illness - an attempt to close what critics call a loophole in the current law that has allowed recreational users to be added to the registry.


Over the past two years, the number of registered users in Montana has increased nearly tenfold to about 30,000 people.


Schweitzer had recommended a number of changes after the Legislature passed the law earlier this week, including allowing 25 patients per pot provider and letting those providers make a profit.


Before adjourning the legislative session on Thursday night, lawmakers agreed to several of the governor's changes and passed a revised bill. One recommendation they did not adopt was loosening the restrictions on medical marijuana providers.


Schweitzer said there is a problem with patient access in the overhaul.


"There is a large concern out there that there are people who have legitimate needs for medical cannabis and aren't equipped to grow their own," he said.


Lawmakers have said they could not endorse increasing the number of patients per provider because the Department of Justice made clear that it will target large growing operations.


Montana's marijuana businesses were recently the target of federal raids, and the U.S. attorney for Montana issued warnings against marijuana businesses last week.






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  • 4 weeks later...

HELENA, Mont. -- Senate Bill 423 has two days before becoming law, but for medical marijuana advocates that means two more days of opportunity for Governor Schweitzer to sign that veto. Advocates came from all over Montana, and made their message clear to the Governor.


“Just be reasonable and veto it” said rally organizer Heidi Handford. “He’s vetoed so many already, there’s a big stack. This is definitely unconstitutional and fits into his guidelines, so he just needs to get out the branding iron.”


The youngest medical marijuana patient, 3 year-old Cash Hyde, attended the rally with his family. His dad Mike Hyde said the young boy suffered from stage four brain cancer, and the only medication that helped him through this time was cannabis oil. “I had him eating, laughing and enjoying the quality of life that wasn’t possible on pharmaceutical drugs.”


Like Hyde, each advocate at the rally had their own story to tell about why it’s so important to them that SB 423 doesn’t pass. “This is really scary” said patient Dawn Peterson-Smith, adding that with medical marijuana, in her 44 years “I have not felt pain and it’s enabled me to go to my son’s wedding in Arizona, it’s enabled me to go out and enjoy life.” Peterson-Smith doesn’t smoke cannabis, but ingests it through suckers and gels. With SB 423, she will no longer have access to those kinds of medications even if she is still able to get a card.


Making their final pleas, and hoping the governor still might change his mind, the advocates held their ground, and their signs. If Schweitzer does let SB 423 pass, opponents will meet up in Missoula on Friday to rally for a referendum.

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what the people want does not matter i guess-it's what our CONTROLLERS THINK is best for us instead.. even when the people spoke and the people voted...only the FEW legislators really know whats best for 30,000 people...no need to vote anymore folks they have it all under control please go back to your regularly scheduled TV program :growl:

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May 29, 2011 2:24pmHELENA, Mont. (AP) — The second phase of Montana's new medical marijuana overhaul will go into effect Wednesday, allowing the state health department to issue pot cards under new regulations — but patients are confused about what happens next under the new restrictive l

When Gov. Brian Schweitzer allowed the law to go into effect May 14, the power to issue cards under the old marijuana law was immediately repealed for the Department of Public Health and Human Services.


The new restrictive law isn't fully implemented until July 1, but on Wednesday the health department is granted emergency powers to issue new marijuana cards. After the law went into effect, the health department indicated they were writing those emergency rules.


The largest change for patients under the new law is a tighter definition of chronic pain, a diagnosis critics say was abused by patients not in need of the drug.


Now patients must give physical proof of chronic pain, like an X-ray, or have a second doctor confirm the diagnosis before they can receive a card.


There are a number of other changes to the card issuing process as well, including a requirement of Montana residency and tighter restrictions on the number of patients a doctor can proscribe cards to.


But information on the new rules and when they go into effect hasn't been entirely clear.


Health department officials have said they have stopped issuing cards at the moment. The agency's website indicates it will continue to accept new applications on the old application forms until June 20, but patients must meet the new pain requirements.


The health department has said the transition rules are confusing and the agency has changed its advice to patients about the new law several times.


Members of the medical marijuana community are equally flummoxed about what happens with the new law.


"At this point I don't think people know what to do," said Jim Gingery, a medical marijuana advocate. "There is just mass confusion among the patients."


The July 1 deadline will see the strictest of the new pot laws be implemented. Marijuana will no longer be able to be sold; it must be given away for free on compassionate grounds. Pot shops and growers must close their doors and Montanans looking to work as a volunteer marijuana provider must register with the health department and submit fingerprints for background checks.


Cards issued under the old law will still be valid until their expiration date. Information from lawmakers who drafted the law estimates around 8,000 cards will be subject to renewal by the end of 2011.


Overall the new law is intended to rein in the booming medical marijuana industry in Montana that has been the target of federal raids, including one in Helena earlier this month. Montana's U.S. attorney previously issued a warning against marijuana businesses.


The state has over 30,000 registered users, one of the highest ratios of registered pot patients to population of any of the 16 states and the District of Columbia that allow medical cannabis.






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