Montana: Judge Blocks Enforcement of Key Parts of Medical Marijuana Law


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A Montana judge on Friday permanently banned enforcement of key provisions of the state's restrictive medical marijuana law.

District Judge James Reynolds blocked several provisions, including a ban on advertising medical marijuana and the prohibition of commercial sales for profit to authorized patients, reports Charles S. Johnson at the Billings Gazette.

The prohibition on for-profit marijuana sales, passed by a Republican-controlled Legislature after Montana voters legalized medicinal cannabis, essentially meant that medical marijuana patients in Montana had to grow their own supply.

Judge Reynolds also struck down provisions that restrict medical marijuana providers from helping more than three authorized patients obtain marijuana -- again, remember, without them being able to be paid, under the old rules struck down by the judge on Friday.

The judge also struck down a part of the law that required the state to provide the Board of Medical Examiners with the names of any doctors who, within a one-year period, authorized more than 25 patients for medical marijuana. The law would have required the physician in question to pay for an automatic review of his practices by the Board of Medical Examiners.

Reynolds also blocked enforcement of a provision which would forbid people under probation or parole from being able to obtain medical marijuana authorizations.

"It's a pretty complete victory for us," said attorney James Goetz of Bozeman, who represents the Montana Cannabis Industry Association.

The provisions struck down on Friday by Judge Reynolds had so far never taken effect either because the judge had earlier blocked them, or the state had agreed not to enforce them.

The judge at the same time let stand two provisions in the law that had been challenged, ruling in the state's favor.

He let stand a provision allowing the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services and state and local law enforcement to make unannounced inspections of medical marijuana providers during normal business hours.

Montana voters in 2004 passed an initiative legaliziling the use of marijuana for people with certain medical conditions. The GOP-controlled Legislature in 2011 gutted the law after a big increase in authorizations starting in mid-2009.

The number of medical marijuana patients jumped from about 2,000 in March 2009 to peak of about 31,500 in May 2011. After the new restrictions were passed, the number fell to 9,600 patients by November 2014, according to the Montana Department of Health and Environmental Science.

It's not immediately clear whether Montana Attorney General Tim Fox will appeal Judge Reynolds' decision. A spokesman said the attorney general's office was reviewing it.