Medical marijuana program hangs in the balance


Last update: September 8, 2015


Since the state’s original medical marijuana law passed in Montana in 2004 with 62% support, the Montana Legislature has spent its time either ignoring the program, or at times, devising ways to undermine it.

In 2011, it got as close to repeal as possible, according to Rep. David Howard. Its approach was to prohibit providers from cultivating or providing marijuana unless they could do it free of charge. Testing marijuana for safety or potency was simply illegal. The law was quickly challenged, and after four years in the courts, the final decision on the constitutionality of the law — dubbed “repeal in disguise” — may soon be decided by the Montana Supreme Court. If the law is upheld, over 75% of current medical marijuana patients today would have to either start growing marijuana themselves or find someone willing to give it to them for free. Even if the program can continue as it has for the past several years, Montana’s unregulated system is a tremendous risk for those who work to provide for seriously ill patients.

This precarious position has put Montana on the map as one of the only states that has tried to roll back medical marijuana programs that typically receive wide support nationally. While 22 other states and the District of Columbia continue with their successful programs, legalization is moving forward across the U.S., with Western states leading the way. Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon have legalized and regulated marijuana for adults 21 and older. It’s time for voters in Montana to again take matters into their own hands and demand a solution. Please take a moment to tell your legislators it is time for Montana to end the failed policy of prohibition.

Montana’s harsh marijuana laws and efforts to change them


In Montana, possession of even a single joint for non-medical purposes can land a person 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 2012, there were 1,502 arrests or citations for marijuana-related offenses, 95% of which were for possession. The number of marijuana arrests more than tripled since 2003. At the same time, law enforcement was unable to solve 91% of all burglaries — including home invasions — and over 85% of all motor vehicle thefts. 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. It’s past time for a better solution. Ask your legislators to support reducing the penalty for possession of cannabis to a civil fine.

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