The Montana Supreme Court says it will delay enforcement of the punishing medical marijuana ruling it upheld in February, giving providers and patients a reprieve until August 31. That February ruling dealt a heavy blow to the state’s medical marijuana community, limiting cannabis providers to no more than three patients each.
The Montana Cannabis Industry Association (MTCIA) forecasted the rollbacks forcing the closure of dispensaries and leaving patients – many in debilitating medical states ranging from cancer to Crohn’s disease – without a legal way to obtain the drug.
With this recent decision, MTCIA is getting a late start collecting the signatures needed to qualify their initiative 182 for the November ballot, requiring the collection of 24,000 signatures needed by mid-June to put the initiative on the 2016 ballot.
Says MTCIA President Bob Devine, “This is a great initiative. We are very confident that we will get the signatures [needed] and that Montana will choose a responsible program.”
The cannabis debate is in full swing in Montana this year with three other measures vying for space on the November ballot – Initiative 178 and Constitutional Amendment 115 to legalize recreational use, as well as Initiative 176 to restrict cannabis use.
Proponents cite the need for safe, tested medicine produced close to home rather than imported from neighboring countries.
“Montanans have a right to keep the production of cannabis in our state,” says Lionheart dispensary owner, Chris Fanuzzi. “We know that the war on drugs has failed, and demand for safe cannabis is widespread. We also know that the import of untested and unsafe illegal product has gone down with the passing of smart, patient-focused medical marijuana legislation.”
Fanuzzi adds that he will be working with other industry leaders to educate Montanans and create public awareness around this important issue. “We talk with our lawmakers, family and friends about the benefits of consuming safe, quality locally grown medicine.”
The gap between the August 31 deadline and the November ballot will no doubt put many patients who rely on consistent treatments in a dire situation, as their access to medicine will be interrupted for months.
“This is definitely a step in the right direction,” says Ryan Saghatelian, owner of Greener Pastures in Bozeman, Montana, “but it doesn’t get us close enough to the crucial election time in November. There will still be a two-month lapse in access to medical marijuana for the sick people of Montana. It’s unfortunate that we have to vote in something that was already voted on in 2004. ”
NBC Montana reports that Chief Justice Mike McGrath wrote in Monday’s ruling that “immediate implementation of the court’s opinion will cause serious disruption [to the] a program.”
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Read the full ruling below.