The Montana judge responsible for blocking restrictive provisions to the state’s medical marijuana law for the past three and a half years has issued another ruling to permanently halt the potentially crippling rules from coming into effect.
The decision, released by District Judge James Reynolds of Helena on Friday, permanently enjoins key components of the Legislature’s 2011 medical marijuana registration law. These components, which would have banned marijuana advertising, forbidden commercial sales, limited caregivers to three patients and investigated physicians recommending cannabis to more than 25-patients per year, have never been put into place as a result of the legal case that began shortly after the passage of the registration law.
“It is not the goal of this Court to interfere with the Legislature’s slow and careful opening of the door to the use of medical marijuana,” Reynolds wrote. “It is the goal of this Court, however, to ensure everybody who could benefit from medical marijuana, and especially those with the most serious medically debilitating conditions, are able to travel through the door equally.”
The Billings Gazette reports it wasn’t immediately clear whether attorneys working for the state will appeal Judge Reynold’s latest decision.
While Montana passed a medical marijuana law in 2004, the legislature’s 2011 action to replace and reform the law, Senate Bill 423, became law without then-Gov. Brian Schweitzer’s signature and has been disputed via the court system ever since. Reynolds has seen the case against the state from the Montana Cannabis Industry Association (MCIA) two times — with the state Supreme Court also hearing the case once — and has ruled in favor of cannabis activists each time by blocking components of the law from taking effect.
“Those most debilitated and in need of medical marijuana would be those least likely able to grow their own supply,” Reynolds wrote in his most recent decision. “Those persons might not have anyone available to grow marijuana for them and, because of the compensation and advertising ban, would have no way of obtaining medical marijuana or learning about anyone who could provide them marijuana. Such a system does not seem rational, if the goal of the legislation at all is to insure that those most in need have some way to access medical marijuana.”
While MCIA attorney James Goetz told the Billings Gazette that Friday’s action was a “complete victory,” components of the 2011 registration law will be allowed to stand. These components authorize unannounced inspections of registered medical marijuana dispensaries during business hours and allow local communities to enact outright bans on dispensaries.
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