Voters in Montana adopted I-182 in November, undoing many harmful provisions in the state medical marijuana law and creating new protections for businesses. Unfortunately, a typo contained in the measure suggested that providers could not re-establish their relationship with patients well into next year. The state would not simply correct the error, so the Montana Cannabis Industry Association (MTCIA), which supported the measure, sought relief in state court. Today’s ruling is yet another victory for patients and those who provide to them.
Special thanks to the MTCIA and their supporters for their hard work in support of the measure, and for taking the matter to court when relief was critical to thousands.
This is the second time Montana’s voters moved marijuana policy forward. In 2004, Montana became the tenth state to adopt a medical marijuana measure. In 2011, lawmakers replaced it with an intentionally unworkable system. Thankfully, voters yesterday weighed in and restored patients’ medical cannabis access.
This key victory comes after years of court battles over the state’s harsh 2011 law. Among other things, the existing law limited providers to three patients and required the state in initiate an investigation into any doctor that recommended medical marijuana to 25 or more patients each year.
The I-182 win not only rolls back those harmful provisions, it creates important new protections. Medical marijuana can be tested, regulators can issue licenses for businesses and inspect them, and workers also gain critical protections.
The state of Montana's nearly 12-year history with medical marijuana takes a turn for the worse onSeptember 1, when most medical marijuana patients are expected lose legal access. After years of court challenges which delayed implementation, most of the state’s 2011 law will be in effect, severely limiting the number of people available to provide medical marijuana to patients.
Under the newly-enforced law, providers may only serve three patients — a change that state agency officials estimate could leave as many as 10,000 seriously ill patients without access. The only alternative is for patients to grow at home, which most are too ill or unable to do. It is not yet clear how many patients will be able to make the switch.
But hope is on the horizon. Voters on November 8 will have a chance to support I-182, a voter initiative that would restore access for patients and even improve the law in big ways. Among other improvements, businesses would receive state licenses to operate and critical legal protections, and medical marijuana could be tested for safety and potency. Polls indicate voters support these types of changes.
This measure comes at a critical time for patients across the state, and we applaud everyone at Montana Citizens for I-182 and those who support them for giving thousands of patients a chance.