Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) has been granted emergency powers that will make it more difficult for patients to obtain a medical marijuana card. The tighter rules for getting a medical marijuana card come into effect today, June 1 2011, yet the Department hasn’t issued a new marijuana card since May 13 2011; the day before the new legislation was passed.
Spokesman for the DPHHS, Roy Kemp, said that although marijuana card applications were still being received after May 13 they couldn’t be processed until today, when the emergency powers come into effect. He added that there would be no renewal or replacement cards issued either.
The new bill, SB423, which repeals and overhauls the 2004 bill, has left medical marijuana patients and their carers bewildered; the Legislature isn’t totally clear on the matter either. The bill, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader, Jeff Essman, is an attempt to prevent Montana’s medical program being wholly abandoned. It was passed by the Legislature and Governor Brian Schweitzer allowed into law without his signature. This led Lewis and Clark County Attorney, Leo Gallaugher, to state that there is no authority within the new bill to allow the DPHHS to issue new cards. Hence the emergency rules.
To add even more uncertainty to the situation, the Montana Cannabis Industry Association has filed a lawsuit in a bid to have the new law declared unconstitutional. The Association are also gathering signatures in support of suspending implementation of the law until Montanans go to the polls in November 2012.
Jeff Essman believes the lawsuit is: “legal action filed by the highly paid hired gun of the millionaire marijuana growers to prevent them from losing their very profitable business model on July 1st.” The hearing is scheduled to take place on June 20 and 21, 2011.
According to Senator Dave Wanzenried the confusion has been caused by the rush to implement the law, saying: “being rushed through like this and having really really quick turn around dates is going to cause this confusion and my guess is we’re probably going to have a lot of people out there unwittingly violating the law.”
Ed Doctor of the MT Cannabis Industry Association added, “this is an embarrassing thing for the sate of Montana. You’ve got patients and citizens who are confused, they feel left out, they feel like they don’t count. I think a lot of this confusion spawns from having the bill forced down our throats, unlike any other bill that’s passed in Montana history.”
The law is scheduled to be fully implemented on July 1 2011 when marijuana dispensaries will close their doors for the last time.
Requirements of the New Montanan Medical Marijuana Rules
- Sufferers from chronic pain (the major reason for issue of medical marijuana cards) will have a burden of proof; that is, they will be required to provide evidence of their suffering. One method of proof that would be acceptable is an x-ray; if there is nothing visible on the x-ray to confirm the pain (and quite often there isn’t) the patient will need to have their need for medical marijuana confirmed by two separate physicians.
- From July 1 marijuana it will be illegal to buy or sell marijuana; in other words, the medication will have to be given away on compassionate grounds.
- Caregivers will be required to register with the Health Department; they will be subject to a background check and will be fingerprinted.
- There are currently 30,000 medical marijuana patients in the state but the new rules will see access to their medication of choice severely limited.