On Wednesday, Montana Representative Kelly McCarthy presented House Bills 340-343, all of which aim to fix provisions in Montana’s 2011 medical marijuana law.
McCarthy said he was not filing the bills to argue the value of medical marijuana, but instead to address patient concerns and eliminate unnecessary provisions in the original law. “While well meaning, Senate Bill 423 was put together in haste,” he said, speaking of the state’s original medical marijuana bill.
The House Human Services Committee heard testimony on four bills by Rep. Kelly McCarthy, D-Billings, that fix four provisions in a 2011 law that a Helena district judge in January has preliminarily blocked from being enforced until a trial is held. Attorney General Tim Fox has not yet decided on whether to appeal the decision to the Montana Supreme Court.
At the hearing were supporters of the bills, including medical marijuana patients and representatives from the Montana Cannabis Information Association, as well as two attorneys and members of the ACLU. In opposition of the bills were members of the Billings Chamber of Commerce, Rimrock Foundation of Billings, which focuses on substance abuse treatment, and Safe Community, Safe Kids, a family organization opposed to medical marijuana. Members of law enforcement also testified against the bills.
House Bill 340 eliminates the requirement that Medical Board Examiners automatically review any physicians who have given written certification for more than 25 people in any 12 month period to use medical marijuana.
House Bill 341 allows medical marijuana caregivers to be paid for providing medical marijuana to patients. The 2011 law does not allow for cash transactions, which either greatly deters people from being caregivers or forces people to break the law because the vast majority of people do not want to just give their marijuana away for free.
House Bill 342 removes the 3 person limit for the number of patients that a medical marijuana provider can serve.
House Bill 343 eliminates medical marijuana record keeping and provisions for automatic inspections of providers.
Speaking for the Cannabis Information Association, Pat Pardis stated, “With these gaping holes, SB423 does not remain intact as a viable law,” Pardis said. “Before you today, you have an opportunity to correct most of these constitutional issues. SB423 is far from ideal, but it appears we will be living with it until either light dawns on the horizon or the courts throw it out entirely.”
Opposing the bills, Candace Payne, a lobbyist for Rimrock Foundation, said the 2011 law “is having the desired effect of getting the medical marijuana industry under control in Montana. HB341 is an attempt to supply statutory language to allow marijuana providers to sell as much pot as they want to, to as many people as they can,” Payne said. Her use of the term “pot” drew a protest from one committee member.
The committee has not taken immediate action on the bills.