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Montana Supreme Court Weighs in on Medical Marijuana Debate

Montana Supreme Court Weighs in on Medical Marijuana Debate

Posted by Marijuana Doctors on 05/29/2012 in Medical Marijuana News

On Wednesday, the Montana State Supreme Court will hear out arguments on separate appeals that have been filed by a medical marijuana industry group, as well as the state of Montana. They are appealing separate portions of a district court decision that took place in 2011, which temporarily blocked parts of a much stricter 2011 state law from being implemented into action.

At 9:30 in the morning, the Montana State Supreme Court will hear the case of the Montana Cannabis Industry Association as well as others, within the court’s chambers on the third floor of the Justice and State Library Building, in Helena, Montana. The court is setting a limit to the oral arguments presented to only two issues from District Court Judge James Reynolds’s previous ruling.

One of the arguments is whether or not the judge erred in blocking the law’s ban on medical marijuana cardholders by compensating providers for marijuana products, and its limit that a marijuana provider or caregiver can provide marijuana for a maximum of three cardholders. Previously, there have been no restrictions on compensation towards the number of cardholders that a caregiver could serve. These roadblocks created by the district court are being challenged by the state.

The next argument is whether or not Judge Reynolds erred in denying a preliminary injunction against the enforcement of the entire 2011 Medical Marijuana Act, as the Cannabis Industry has sought of instead of just the five sections originally blocked. The Montana Cannabis Industry is appealing this issue.

The real issue at stake is Senate Bill 423, which was one of the major bills presented before the 2011 Legislature and is subject to many potential amendments. The Montana Legislature passed Senate Bill 423 only after Democratic Governor Brian Schweitzer vetoed a bill that was passed by the Republican-controlled House and Senate to repeal the 2004 voter-passed initiative to legalize the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. SB423 is severely criticized by medical marijuana advocates. Brian Schweitzer let SB423 become law without his signature, but registered a number of objections to it.

James Goetz and Devlan Geddes, attorneys for the Montana Cannabis Industry Association and others, said that, “SB423, in its entirety, is an unconstitutional broadside on the rights of Montanans. The central problem with the act is that it is calculated to deny all reasonable access to medical marijuana.” Both Goetz and Geddes devote much of their time defending medical marijuana as a valid and legitimate medicine for a number of people, as they quote some plaintiffs who testified about the “lifesaving” nature of marijuana. After evidence provided in 2011, they cite that the evidence shows marijuana has “important medicinal qualities”.

The Cannabis Industry Association lawyers said, the main problem with the law is that it seeks to choke off access to medicinal marijuana for those who are in need of it by eliminating caregiver producers. The state attorney general’s office defended the law however, contending that Judge Reynolds had erroneously applied “a fundamental right analysis to the production, sale and use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.”

Neither those who challenged Senate Bill 423, nor Justice Judge Reynolds, cited a single case holding that there is a fundamental right of access to medical marijuana. The Montana State Legislature had before it a long history of abuses concerning the sale of marijuana s well as the evidence of an exploding industry and an exponential growth in use rate. 

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