Montana medical marijuana measure passes, patients again have access


Last update: December 8, 2016


Few states with medical marijuana programs have faced the challenges and uncertainty faced by medical marijuana patients in Montana. Federal law enforcement efforts to end the program in 2011, in which DEA agents raided dozens of local businesses, were immediately followed by state legislative efforts to repeal medical marijuana completely. When the governor vetoed repeal, lawmakers passed a law that was as close to repeal as they could get.

Years of legal battles over the new law ensued, ending with a Montana Supreme Court ruling earlier in 2016 that upheld nearly all of the terrible medical marijuana law. Nearly 95% of the patients in the state were suddenly without access. Yet despite the many challenges, Montanans in support of access for patients once again fought for safe access to medicine. A voter initiative measure that was designed to not only restore the law but improve on it passed on November 8, 2016, with 57% of voters in support.

Following the vote, medical marijuana providers were granted many important protections immediately under the law. While there was some initial confusion about when changes would take place, it is now clear that patients may again reunite with their provider. Stay tuned as the state medical marijuana program once again gets on its feet. For a closer look at the current law, click here.

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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