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Majority of Montana Patients to Lose Access to Medical Marijuana

Most medical marijuana patients in Montana will be without legal access for at least two months because of a 2011 law that is finally being implemented. Voters will have an opportunity to amend the law this November, but even if it passes, a “clerical error” could delay implementation.

Starting September 1, a majority of patients in Montana lost legal access to medical marijuana due to a 2011 law that finally took effect. While Montana legalized medical marijuana in 2004, in 2011 the state passed SB 423, which expanded the list of eligible conditions but placed significant limitations on medical marijuana access. Court challenges over the past few years had delayed implementation the 2011 bill.

Under SB 423, marijuana providers, or caregivers, are limited to assisting no more than three medical marijuana patients. The change is reportedly going to affect over 10,000 medical marijuana patients, many of whom are seriously ill and require the assistance of caregivers. Patients are allowed to cultivate cannabis at home for medicinal purposes, but the ones affected by the newly implemented law are likely too ill or crippled by chronic pain to do so.

In Silver Bow County, the 18 providers in the county will only be able to serve a combined total of 54 patients, leaving 728 others (93 percent) forced with cultivating their own marijuana, acquiring cannabis through illegal means, or turning to addictive and dangerous opiate drugs and other pain killers. Montana state health department spokesman Jon Ebelt has said that 35 percent of providers throughout the state are closing because of the three-patient cap.

“The new restrictions on medical marijuana going into effect this week will be devastating for patients. I know first-hand because I am a medical marijuana patient and have been for the past 10 years,” wrote Morgan Marks, a Montana resident with Arnold Chiari Malformation and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. “Medical marijuana allows me to effectively treat my medical condition in a safer way and without the complications associated with the pharmaceuticals I would otherwise need to use. I know what it means to be a sick person and I have found the only medicine that works for me is medical marijuana. It allows me to live a full life.”

U.S. Marijuana Laws

Luckily, later this year Montana voters will get to decide on I-182, a voter initiative that would restore medical marijuana access for patients. The initiative would amend SB 423 to only remove the restrictions limiting providers to only three patients, but remove the obstacles for patients diagnosed with chronic pain and allow medicinal cannabis access to veterans and other patients suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Even if the I-182 proposal is approved later this fall, however, it will still be a while before Montana’s medical marijuana market is up and running. Despite the intent behind I-182 being for all changes to become effective immediately, a “clerical error” in the initiative dictates that several of the new changes would not take effect until June 30, 2017. Because the measure has already been finalized by the Montana Secretary of State’s office, it cannot be amended.

While marijuana can only be acquired legally through state-legislated programs, cannabidiol (CBD) dietary supplements derived from hemp are not considered medical marijuana and are legal throughout the United States, including Montana. Medical Marijuana, Inc. offers an array of CBD hemp oil products, including pure oil and edibles, which are legal to purchase in all 50 states and in 40 international countries. 

Post by Eve Ripley

Eve is a writer specializing in cannabis education and editorials related to cannabis industry news.

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