Last Update: January 16, 2015
Will the Montana Legislature fix the state medical marijuana program?
Since voters overwhelmingly passed a medical marijuana law in 2004, the legislature has met five times. Each time, it has failed to implement a workable regulatory system to ensure patients have safe, regular access to medicine. The only significant change happened in 2011, when the legislature passed “repeal in disguise” and unsuccessfully tried to shut down all business — again missing the opportunity to regulate medical marijuana. This year’s session offers a chance to change that, but will the legislature take that opportunity? In the wake of a court ruling blocking some of the most unworkable provisions of the current law, Republican majority leader, Sen. Jeff Essman — one of the current law’s authors — told reporters it may be time to consider a regulatory structure. If you agree it’s time to regulate the program to provide safe and regular access for patients, let your legislators know. A copy of the court ruling is available here.
Meanwhile, other marijuana-related legislation has been presented, including an apparent solution in search of a problem. Rep. David Moore has presented H.B. 173, which prohibits state agencies from making any rule concerning the use or sale of marijuana for any purpose other than that related to medical marijuana, “including the recreational use of marijuana.” While Montana could help eliminate the underground market, save significant tax dollars currently wasted on ineffective marijuana prohibition policies, and actually make revenue, it is inconceivable that any agency could simply legalize marijuana through the rulemaking process.
Finally, Montana’s unscientific DUI law remains in effect, which 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 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.
If you believe that Montana law enforcement dollars could be better spent going after real criminals, write your legislators and urge 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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