Last Update: March 7, 2014

Montana's embattled medical marijuana program continues, and a better solution is now on the horizon

The Montana Legislature is not in session in 2014, and seriously ill patients in the state continue to operate under an inadequate medical marijuana law with little relief in sight for improvement. In 2011, the legislature gutted the state’s voter-enacted law, replacing it with a law designed to eliminate any practical chance for providers to make a needed medicine available to patients. A lawsuit filed in 2010 continues to keep the state medical marijuana program minimally functional.

A better solution for both patients and the state as a whole is on the horizon. The Marijuana Policy Project plans to partially fund a voter initiative to legalize and regulate marijuana for adults in 2016 if local supporters and groups raise a substantial portion of the cost.

Unscientific driving law in effect

An ill-conceived and unscientific DUI law went into effect October 1, 2013. The new law makes it a crime for a driver to have five or more nanograms per milliliter of THC (ng/mL) in his or her bloodstream, whether or not the person is actually impaired. Without a doubt, people should not drive while impaired. However, medical marijuana patients may have that level of THC in their blood long after any impairment has worn off. This law is bad for medical marijuana patients because it does not reflect on their ability to drive safely. Tell your representative and senator to repeal this unfair law here.

Montana’s marijuana laws; efforts to change them

In Montana, possession of even a single joint for non-medical purposes can land you in jail for six months, while possession of 60 grams or more (a little over two ounces) can result in a sentence of up to five years. These stiff marijuana penalties cause related negative consequences.

In 2011, there were 1,335 arrests for marijuana-related offenses, 94% of which were for possession. The number of marijuana arrests more than tripled since 2003. At the same time, law enforcement solved only 19.8% of all rapes reported and 8.3% of all burglaries. Instead of arresting adults for possession of a product that is safer than alcohol, law enforcement should focus its limited resources on going after real criminals. Meanwhile, according to figures collected by the ACLU, Montanans spend over $6 million each year enforcing marijuana possession laws in the failed and costly war on marijuana. It's past time for a better solution.

If you believe that Montana law enforcement dollars could be better spent going after real criminals, write your legislators a letter urging them to support legislation reducing marijuana possession penalties. Or, ask them to legalize marijuana for adults 21 and older and to regulate it like alcohol.

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