by Kayla G.
Montana has had a tumultuous relationship with marijuana in recent years. In 2004, use of medical marijuana was legalized in the state only to have a large portion of those laws rolled back in 2011. More recently, petitioners have rallied to expand the availability of medical marijuana in the state only to be met with more resistance.
Currently, restrictive laws prevent Montana’s medical marijuana providers from offering the medicine to more than 3 people each. This greatly limits the number of patients in the state that can gain access to medical marijuana and, to the more than 30,000 people who signed a petition to abolish this restriction, it seems downright ridiculous. If this restriction is enforced as it is scheduled to be starting this August, more than 12,000 patients will lose their access to medical marijuana. This matter was taken to the Supreme Court to be overturned, but Monday they refused to hear the appeal, letting stand the 2011 restrictions designed to suffocate the medical marijuana industry in Montana.
Now medical marijuana advocates have one hope for relief left in the form of I-182. The proposed initiative, which has garnered the same amount of signatures in 60 days that it took the opposing initiative 8 months to gather, seeks to expand the availability of medical marijuana throughout the state, impose reasonable regulations for dispensaries, and allow easy access to medical marijuana for the people who really need it.
An opposing initiative is also circulating that would overturn the citizens’ initiative of 2004 and prohibit medical marijuana entirely. If both initiatives collect enough signatures, they could both appear on the ballot this November. This would be unprecedented and officials say they have no idea how to proceed if too competing initiatives are both approved by voters. It would be a very interesting and confusing time to say the least.
But professional polls seem to show that the will of the people leans more toward expanding access to medical marijuana rather than eliminating it entirely, so it’s unlikely that both initiatives will be passed. I-182 would certainly make the medical marijuana industry in Montana safer, more accessible, more regulated, and more profitable while the opposing initiative, I-176 would serve only to punish sick people undergoing things like cancer treatment and hospice care that we should be protecting.