Montana Revises and Tightens Medical Marijuana Law

Montana has allowed medical marijuana since 2004. Today, the Senate joined the House in passing a reform bill. It now heads to the Governor. You can read the bill, SB 423 (SB0423.ENR) here. Among the key provisions:

  • The law repeals the existing Montana Medical Marijuana Act.
  • Lawmakers specified a list of debilitating medical conditions which qualify for a medical marijuana card and defined a standard of care that doctors must comply with to issue a card. The bill now prohibits telemedicine.
  • Lawmakers placed regulatory authority with the Department of Health.
  • The committee limited the number of plants a card-holder can have to 4 mature plants, 12 seedlings and 1 oz of usable marijuana.
  • The amended bill defines chronic pain and forces a patient to either have proof of pain or have 2 doctors certify a chronic pain patient.


  • The bill also allows patients to reimburse their provider for registration fees.
  • The bill prohibits patients from paying cash for their medical marijuana, providers must volunteer to grow the plant.

Gov. Brian Schweitzer intends to sign the bill but may require changes:

"Many people have suggested that this has become so restrictive that people that have actual medical needs for cannabis may be excluded from the process. So we want to look at it very closely and make sure that we're not locking the door on people that have actual medical needs for cannabis," Schweitzer explained.

Michael Cotter, the U.S. Attorney for Montana has written this letter (see pp 15-16) to the legislature on the feds' position. Like the U.S. Attorney for Colorado wrote yesterday concerning a pending Colorado bill, he states:

[W]hile the Department does not focus its limited resources on seriously ill individuals who use marijuana as part of a medically recommended treatment regimen in compliance with state law as stated in the Ogden Memo, we maintain the authority to enforce the CS A vigorously against individuals and organizations that participate in unlawful manufacturing and distribution activity involving marijuana, even if such activities are permitted under state law. The Department's investigative and prosecutorial resources will continue to be directed toward these objectives.

In other words, this is the new DOJ meme, which it thinks is consistent with the Ogden memo. State law makes no difference, except they will won't go after patients with a valid card, who in their view are really ill, and who possess no more plants or usable marijuana than the amount authorized by state law.

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    My Great Uncle has passed away (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by Militarytracy on Wed Apr 27, 2011 at 04:17:30 PM EST
    I used to stay on the ranch with his father and mother in summer after he was grown and had his own place, and it gave my own grandparents a break.  I lived with grandparents after my mom's death.  I played all day with his kids though that lived two sections away when I could.  His mother spoiled without mercy because I was motherless and he had only one child due to having thyroid cancer.  His father married into my mongrel family and was a cousin to LBJ :)  I loved him so much too, he was an amazing yet simple person and one of the sun's that shone on my life.  I refused to go to his funeral as a teenager.  I refused to accept that he was gone.  And now his only child has passed too.  Both my Great Uncle and my Great Great died on the ranch of a massive heart attack.  When my dad just phoned he said, "It runs in the Johnson family, they all die like this."  So I googled LBJ, and yup...it said that he died of a massive heart attack on his ranch.

    I'm very sorry for your loss (none / 0) (#7)
    by sj on Thu Apr 28, 2011 at 10:15:10 AM EST
    And what an interesting family history.  

    Pain is undeniably (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by JamesTX on Wed Apr 27, 2011 at 10:32:43 PM EST
    a phenomenological experience. It is less strongly correlated with so-called physical "etiologies" than one would suspect. That is, the injury or lesion does not define the pain. The same physical damage for two people can be extremely painful for one person while pain will be almost absent in another. Neither x-rays nor any other device measure pain; nor can any device confirm or disconfirm its presence or absence. This will remain true even when imaging of brain activity has advanced into the area, but I will leave the explanation of why for other forums.

    So, what they are saying is pain is either defined as a medical image or the concurrence of two doctors. Philosophers have agreed for centuries that each person's phenomenological experience is ultimately private -- it cannot be lived, viewed or known by any other person. I guess these lawmakers assume it can be known by two others, though. Advances in human knowledge of this proportion rarely come out of legislatures!

    Agreed, but.... (none / 0) (#5)
    by ScottW714 on Thu Apr 28, 2011 at 09:43:54 AM EST
    ... there are certain conditions that all medical doctors recognize as painful, such as leukemia, or aggressive cancers in general.

    The problem starts and ends at the Fed.  Get marijuana off Schedule I and this petty BS will stop.  But right now, it Federally classified as a drug with no medical purpose and highly susceptible to abuse.  Neither of which are true.

    According to the Fed, marijuana is equally as dangerous as PCP & LSD(schedule I), and more dangerous then cocaine and opium(schedule II).


    It depends on how it gets (none / 0) (#8)
    by JamesTX on Thu Apr 28, 2011 at 01:32:01 PM EST
    scheduled, and you know they will schedule it. Since they haven't even admitted it is legal yet, those nightmares are yet to come. If it is scheduled and used, then it will be harder to obtain through the system than through illegal means, and possession will be recriminalized. Believe me, we don't want the federal government regulating marijuana as a scheduled medicine. If you like the way they handle opioids, you'll love their plans for MMJ! They may not can argue about utility, but they will put up a fierce argument about potential for abuse. I can see it getting Schedule II. If it does, then it won't be any easier to obtain than opioids, and you don't have to look far to see the nightmares in that regard. There is a tremendous amount of untreated pain out there. The people who suffer are usually too sick to organize, so they are silent.

    by your reasoning... (none / 0) (#9)
    by diogenes on Fri Apr 29, 2011 at 08:33:02 PM EST
    Since pain in an undefinable, phenomenological experience, I should give unlimited doses of opiate pain relievers to any patient who comes in stating that they suffer from pain and needs them.  
    Please just legalize marijuana already instead of indulging in such absurd arguments.

    easy on the building of (none / 0) (#10)
    by JamesTX on Sun May 01, 2011 at 07:19:20 PM EST
    of straw men, diogenes! That isn't really what I said. I said you can't know, I didn't say your experience wouldn't give you some idea. And I never mentioned anything about dose. The current situation is that the threat of being investigated causes most physicians to err on the side of not treating pain where they would do so absent the widely known aggressive tactics of the DEA. Where you push people to err in one direction or another when the data are not conclusive, you leave a lot of untreated pain somewhere. And while administration of opioids in some circumstances may seem (and may be) an "absurd" medical decision, the idea that people should be denied any means of access to a natural plant that has been used to treat pain for thousands of years is equally absurd from a human rights perspective. I would say they are equal absurdities, and I would propose that your recommendation should be valued, but the decision should not be yours alone.

    If you think it is hard to (none / 0) (#2)
    by JamesTX on Wed Apr 27, 2011 at 10:19:16 PM EST
    use marijuana for medicine now, just wait until it gets regulated as a medicine! As I said before, just because it is a medicine doesn't mean it will be available. People who think getting marijuana classified as such will make it widely available (even to those who need it) should look at the number of people who need opioids and can't get it. The only real route to availability even for medical use is legalization. The systems and agencies which regulate controlled substances are much worse than a statute. They are much more powerful. They can make something that is meant to be available almost impossible to obtain in practice. And there is no simple way to fight the beast once it gets jurisdiction. It has many heads.

    The Montana bill is a mess. (none / 0) (#4)
    by Green26 on Thu Apr 28, 2011 at 05:58:34 AM EST
    The current situation, with the largely unregulated industry created by voter initiative, is also a mess. The governor believes the current legislation is largely unconstitutional. Many parts of it are very objectionable, and some parts are probably unconstitutional. See linked article: http://missoulian.com/news/local/article_7e0b63de-70eb-11e0-ae0b-001cc4c002e0.html
    (Sorry I don't know how to do the shorter link.)

    What is the Trend With AG's... (none / 0) (#6)
    by ScottW714 on Thu Apr 28, 2011 at 09:49:20 AM EST
    ... crossing over into legislatures ?

    An AG is in the enforcement branch of the government, they should have absolutely nothing to do with policy interpretation and/or creation.

    These Constitutional hacks who think they have been  designated overseers of all three branches make me want to puke.  Let the legislature create law, let the courts interpret them, and let the criminal justice system uphold them.