Montana Supreme Court Denies Motion for Rehearing in Medical Marijuana Case

(October 23, Helena) The Montana Supreme Court today denied a motion filed by the Montana Cannabis Industry Association in its constitutional challenge of the state’s medical marijuana law. The motion asked the Supreme Court to reconsider a recent decision overturning significant parts of a lower court’s injunction against the law.

As a result of the September 11 ruling overturning the injunction, the provisions in the current medical marijuana that limit providers to no more than 3 patients and prohibit them from recouping back end operational costs are now in full effect according to the state’s Attorney General’s office. Until the injunction was overturned, the average provider had 16 patients, and the average production cost covered by registered patients was approximately $240 per ounce.

In response to the ruling, the Department of Public Health and Human Services is sending notice to nearly 5,500 of the state’s 8,849 patients cancelling their licensed medical marijuana provider and giving them 30-day notice to either find a different provider or begin growing marijuana for themselves.

“Given that most patients are too ill, marijuana cultivation is costly, and landlords must sign an affidavit giving renters permission to grow marijuana in the home, I do not expect many will be able to actually grow their own medical marijuana,” said Chris Lindsey, president of the Montana Cannabis Industry Association. “And since providers are already scarce and they can no longer recoup costs, few patients will be able to find anyone to help them,” he said.

In the closing days of last year’s session, legislators passed a medical marijuana law that repealed the popular voter-approved program and replaced it with a new, stricter law that advocates and even legislators who supported the new law say was designed to effectively end medical marijuana in the state. “The current law as written makes it as hard as possible for people to be in compliance under the best of circumstances. Without the protections in place from our lawsuit, the legislature will finally get what it was aiming for – a poorly regulated system designed to end the voter-approved program.”

An initiative referendum called IR-124 appears on the ballot this year which allows voters to either keep the current medical marijuana law or overturn it. A vote for SB423 keeps the current law in its entire form, and a vote against SB423 restores the previous law along with the several recent rulings by the Supreme Court which create numerous limitations on activities under the former law. Several candidates this year, including Attorney General Steve Bullock in his campaign for governor, have come out in opposition to the current law and believe it should be overturned.

“My heart goes out to the thousands of patients who won’t have reasonable, regulated access to medical marijuana. In the rush to get as close to repeal as possible, our elected officials seem to have forgotten our state’s most vulnerable citizens,” said Lindsey.

James Goetz, the attorney for the MTCIA, will seek a temporary restraining order and a second preliminary amended injunction to block the provisions the Supreme Court evaluated – this one under the new standard of review established by the Court in its recent ruling.

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