Coming of the heels of the Ohio vote, Montana’s state attorneys argued before the Supreme Court on Wednesday, to lift a judge’s injunction that prevents enforcement of a 2011 law that would ban commercial sales of medical marijuana and limit providers of the drug to a maximum of three patients.
This is the fifth year of a legal fight to severely restrict how medical marijuana is grown and distributed, the fight continues even as attitudes in other parts of the nation appear to be shifting toward more tolerance for the legalization of cannabis.
The industry in Montana was low-key until a 2009 memo from the U.S. Department of Justice, suggesting the federal government might not prosecute those following state medical marijuana laws, and the number of registered users exploded form about 3,000 to more than 30,000.
The state also wants to lift District Judge James Reynolds’ block of other provisions that ban medical marijuana advertising and an automatic review of doctors who recommend the drug for more than 25 patients.
If the ruling is overturned and commercial sales of the drug are banned, ill patients would be effectively cut off from all access because they don’t have the knowledge or the strength to supply themselves, said James Goetz, an attorney for the Montana Cannabis Information Association, which sued to block the law from taking effect.
“When the state says it has too many cardholders … What it really means is you’re certifying people who shouldn’t be certified. So enforce it that way,” Goetz said. “I don’t know if there are 800 or 8,000 glaucoma sufferers in this state. Whatever the number is, they should be entitled to this kind of treatment.” “They’re real people in need who can’t grow their own,” Goetz said.
If the state is successful in overturning the judge’s injunction, it would be one of the most significant rollbacks among the 23 states and Washington, D.C., that allow the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, said Seattle attorney Hilary Bricken, who specializes in marijuana business law.
“Montana stands alone in the extreme way in which it has nearly repealed its medical marijuana laws and in the way it has strangled out its own medical marijuana industry,” Bricken said. The state “is desperately trying to put the genie back in the bottle, from what I can tell,” she said.
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