Montana Supreme Court Restricts Medical Marijuana Laws

Montana Medical Marijuana restricted by Supreme Court

Montana’s medical marijuana community took a big hit today after a ruling from the Montana Supreme Court limited cannabis providers in the state to no more than three patients each. One of the most significant medical marijuana rollbacks attempted in the U.S. this decade, the decision will have untold negative consequences for the thousands of patients who rely on medical cannabis for maladies ranging from Crohn’s disease to seizure disorders.

Citing the period from 2008-2010, when the number of medical marijuana users in Montana rose from about 1,000 to more than 25,000 patients, the state’s ban seeks to severely limit commercial growth of the industry. The Supreme Court ruling – intended to curtail abuses perceived by the state as leading to a flourishing marijuana industry – says that it will restrict medical marijuana providers to “a three patient limit.”

In Bozeman, Cannabis dispensary owner Chris Fanuzzi remembers the ill-effects from the state mandate in 2011 to restrict medical cannabis use, “The last time they changed the law, the repercussions to Montanans – both financially and medically – were staggering. I’ve been preparing for this decision for four years.”

Though Montana voters approved medical marijuana with a 2004 voter initiative, the 2011 mandate, led by conservative lawmakers, set in motion events meant to inevitably push the Montana medical cannabis industry out of existence.

A majority of the roughly 4,000 dispensaries at the peak of the industry have now shuttered their doors since the 2011 mandate in fears that the tide has turned against legal medical marijuana.

According to the Billings Gazette, an opinion written by Justice Beth Baker reads that, “The Legislature determined that placing a limit on the number of registered cardholders a provider may assist serves the objectives of keeping marijuana away from large-scale manufacturing operations, making it less appealing to major traffickers.”

A confounding situation – not only because a majority of Montana’s citizens voted to legalize medical pot in 2004, but two states away in Colorado the state government there is dealing with the enviable position of how to spend the more than $120 million in taxes from 2015 cannabis sales.

The Montana Supreme Court commented that the 6-to-1 decision was a “rational response” by the state in the face of the drastic increase in medical marijuana. The only complete dissent came from Justice Mike Wheat, says KTVQ in Billings, who said the state went too far in curbing alleged abuses of the law and had restricted patients’ access to marijuana so severely that it “ultimately destroys the law’s purpose.”

For dispensary owner Fanuzzi’s part, he looks to continue providing patients with cannabis.

“It’s a shame because it means millions in lost tax revenues for Montana and patients’ rights lost,” he says, but adds with resolve. “I intend to follow state law and to continue providing quality medicine to qualified patients in need.”

What are your thoughts on rolling back medical marijuana laws in the U.S.?

Dave Carpenter is the managing editor of Cannabis Now Magazine. He's passionate about normalizing the use of cannabis as medicine for the ill and advancing the plant into free markets, treating it no differently than any other commodity with the potential to drive widespread economic growth. He's happy to see the herb finally getting the respect it deserves.

9 Comments

  1. Debra

    February 27, 2016 at 7:28 pm

    Isn’t it just crazy. Really people, DO YOUR RESEARCH. This is not a terrible drug it’s being made out to be. All you are doing is driving it underground and missing out on tax dollars our state needs. Can’t we just grow up?

  2. Frank

    February 27, 2016 at 12:03 am

    I live here. I have had a doctor clear me for a card. The caregiver i use is one of the oldest in the state and its sad to see the employees lose a job overnight. The info from them is that the original writing of the law was poor and easy to vote down from the mt supreme court. However, theres a new and well written law to replace the one that was just shot down. It’ll take 8 or so months and signatures statewide but should be voted back into law. a good law. Sucks for now but we’ll get it figured out.

  3. Lawrence Goodwin

    February 26, 2016 at 9:27 pm

    Sorry to hear about your loss, Montana. Keep pushing back. That modern “conservative” label does not match older versions. Two of the most popular “conservative” thinkers ever were Milton Friedman and William F. Buckley, and they were both strongly opposed to “marihuana” prohibition. “Even if one takes every reefer madness allegation of the prohibitionists at face value, marijuana prohibition has done far more harm to far more people than marijuana ever could,” said Buckley. He also fumed that anti-pot zealots base arguments on “a cancerous tissue of lies.”

  4. Nick Fury

    February 26, 2016 at 6:35 pm

    As far as my Montana friends and relatives tell me, the biggest issue in Montana is meth, and heroin, just as it is, in most other places in the country.

    Legalize pot, and take away the biggest profit for the cartels, who piggyback the hard stuff, with their MJ imports.

  5. Chris

    February 26, 2016 at 8:58 am

    What are the ages of those in their State Supreme Court…. I am sure that is a major factor. Anyone with any freaking common sense would know that this is wrong. And if the Feds do overturn the Class 1 stigma, what then Montana…. Idiots in power. If they had a child or anyone close that survives and has some quality of life you can bet they would not have voted this in. I hope they all get what they deserve only from a health standpoint. Ignorance is the most major issue of all.

  6. R Compo

    February 25, 2016 at 11:30 pm

    Why not file a class action law suit against the Montana Supreme Court. Legal patients need to stand up and be heard. Enough with old rhetoric, in with educated truth!

  7. James Moore

    February 25, 2016 at 11:13 pm

    Mormons and Republicans suck

    • Nick Fury

      February 26, 2016 at 6:33 pm

      More Democrats in Montana than you think, and they ARE democrats, because they all want corporate welfare for their farms, and I doubt, you will find many mormons on the supreme court, its Utah where they rule

  8. Richard Thompson

    February 25, 2016 at 6:48 pm

    I think it is all crap. The people that furnish the pot should make a profit. They should be able to have as many patients that they can get. Pot is the only medicine that is restricted in that way. The people that make up those stupid laws should be in the unemployment line. There are people that abuse all medications. Pot is the only that has restrictions. If it is abused. Pot has the least side effects out of all of them. Make pot legal. Much better than booze.

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