Enormous Statewide Support for Medical Marijuana Patients, And Against SB 423

May 10, 2011 News

Emphasizing that they are overwhelmed by the statewide outpouring of support from patients and their friends and caregivers over the past few days, the leaders of the Montana Cannabis Industry Association (MTCIA) today announced they have hired Bozeman attorney Jim Goetz to help them fight for patients’ rights if SB 423 takes effect later this week.

“The people of Montana aren’t going to take the decimation of Montana’s medical marijuana law lying down,” said Kate Cholewa, MTCIA Board member.  “And people clearly understand that SB 423 was designed to obstruct what voters intended, make it impossible for patients to obtain physician recommendations, and to obstruct access to safe cannabis regardless of a person’s medical need and necessity. The legislature did not fix our medical marijuana law,” she noted. “They made it far worse for everyone.”

Last Thursday, the Montana Cannabis Industry Association put out the call that the group hoped to hire Jim Goetz to secure an injunction against SB 423 going into effect.  After only five days, the group reported raising $50,000.  “We raised it with phone calls, electronic networking, and in community meetings. People care deeply about this,” Cholewa said.

SB 423, which will go into effect on Friday, May 13th, unless vetoed by the Governor, repeals much of the current medical marijuana statutes and imposes new provisions such as required investigations against physicians that make more than 25 referrals. In addition, the referring physician must pay for the investigation.

“That alone does extraordinary damage,” said Cholewa. “Doctors have told us they will no longer make referrals under the new law, no matter how severe a patient’s condition.”

In another provision, chronic pain patients will face increased financial costs to secure a medical marijuana referral as they must either have diagnostic tests done, or have an examination by a second physician.

“It’s crazy,” Cholewa said. “We went in there trying to raise the bar for physicians and instead the legislature raised the cost to patients.”

Advocates repeatedly testified on behalf of requiring that physicians who make medical marijuana referrals be required to take AMA- accredited continuing education courses in cannabis medicine in order to provide legitimate, appropriate medical decisions and ending abuses of the law.

“The legislature didn’t want that because they didn’t want good doctors, respectable providers, and a high quality, clean product. They want it shady so they can justify eliminating access. How’s a 75 year old woman in Circle supposed to find someone willing to grow marijuana for her for free? How’s she supposed to find a doctor to make the referral under threat of investigation?”

“We are overwhelmed by the support pouring in to fight this affront to Montanans,” said Cholewa. “It’s about more than marijuana, now. It’s about democracy, the Constitution, health care, and the fulfillment of compassionate voter intent. This is big.”