MT: Medical Marijuana Patients Ask State To Delay Enforcement Of New Restrictions

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Helena – Medical-marijuana patients and providers in Montana are urging state officials to delay enforcement of next week’s new restrictions on the drug until voters decide a November 8 ballot measure to lift those restrictions.

Even if Initiative 182 is approved, it wouldn’t lift the most onerous restrictions until June 2017 – 10 months from now.

Starting next Wednesday, each medical-marijuana provider in Montana can serve only three patients – a restriction they say essentially puts them out of business and cuts off the drug for thousands of patients across the state.

I-182, if passed, would eliminate that three-patient limit, allowing providers to serve as many customers as they want.

But supporters of I-182 confirmed Thursday that a drafting error in the measure’s language doesn’t remove that three-patient limit until June 30, 2017 – even though authors intended to have I-182 remove the limit immediately upon its passage by voters.

Matt Leow, the campaign coordinator for I-182, said supporters are deciding how they could fix the error, so the limit can be removed when voters approve the initiative.

The Legislature’s chief counsel, Todd Everts, told MTN News that the only fix might have to make by the 2017 Legislature, which doesn’t convene until January.

Montana has about 13,500 medical-marijuana patients, most of whom are served by about 400 licensed providers.

But starting last month, state health officials in charge of the medical-marijuana program began notifying providers that they had to identify the three patients they would provide, once the new restrictions became effective Aug. 31.

As of Thursday, 286 providers have returned forms naming the patients they will serve after the restrictions take effect, state officials said. They can serve only 858 patients – about 6 percent of the existing patients.

However, state officials said another 500 patients have indicated they will continue as their provider of marijuana.

The 2011 Legislature passed the restrictions, in the wake of a massive increase in medical-marijuana cardholders in 2009 and 2010. Some of the restrictions did not take effect, however, while a legal challenge to the new law wound its way through the courts.

In February of this year, the Montana Supreme Court upheld most of the law and later said the restrictions would take effect August 31.

In the meantime, the medical-marijuana industry and its supporters gathered enough signatures to place I-182 on the ballot this fall, to lift the restrictions passed by the 2011 Legislature.

On Thursday, I-182 supporters presented a petition to Attorney General Tim Fox, signed by more than 1,000 Montanans, asking him to support a delay in implementing or enforcing the restrictions.

“Patients are scared,” said Tayln Lang of Hamilton, a military veteran who uses marijuana to treat post-traumatic stress syndrome and a digestive ailment. “I’ve had a lot of phone calls from fellow patients of mine, who simply don’t know what to do. They don’t have the ability to be able to grow it for themselves.”

Fox’s office said he has no authority to nullify the law or ignore a law that the Legislature has passed, and the courts have upheld.

Lang, however, said he hopes the attorney general, as the state’s chief law enforcement officer, will advise law enforcement in Montana to “stand down” and not “go after patients” until the Nov. 8 vote occurs and Montanans decide the issue.

David Lewis of Helena, another veteran, said marijuana is the only drug he’s found that can help him manage pain brought on by multiple surgeries and other medical problems stemming from his exposure to the toxic herbicide Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.

“When you approach that ballot (in November), please approach it with the idea that it’s a medical issue,” he told reporters Thursday. “It’s not recreation, and it’s not anything else. It’s a medical issue – that’s it.”

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker
Full Article: Medical Marijuana Patients Ask State To Delay Enforcement Of New Restrictions
Author: Staff
Contact: 406-457-1212
Photo Credit: KRQE
Website: KTVH