Drug Law

Montana’s Medical Marijuana "Repeal Lite” Bill

| by NORML
By "Radical" Russ Belville

There remains in Montana one final bill pushed by opponents of medical marijuana. Dubbed “Repeal Lite” by activists from Kalispell on The Hot Box Podcast airing on The NORML Network, this bill seeks to create new regulations so tightly crafted as to decimate (literally) the rolls of registered patients from over 28,000 to about 2,000.

Now it appears due to time constraints, the bill will require a supermajority greater than the GOP 28-22 domination of the Senate in order to move the bill.

(The Missoulian) HELENA - The Senate was forced to postpone its scheduled debate Tuesday on Senate Bill 423, by Sen. Jeff Essmann, R-Billings, so the bill will come to the floor Wednesday.

The delay now will force the Senate to obtain a supermajority vote – or 34 of the 50 senators’ votes – instead of a simple majority vote – or 26 votes – to pass Senate Bill 423 to send it to the House by Wednesday’s deadline.

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Suddenly, 17 senators from the Democratic minority, or any combination of SB423 opponents, can stop it from reaching the House on time, effectively killing the bill. Republicans have a 28-22 margin over Democrats in the Senate.

If that happens, the Legislature likely will come empty-handed in imposing strict regulations on a medical marijuana industry that critics contend has spun out of control in Montana. This was considered one of the major issues facing the Legislature.

The new bill would repeal the current medical marijuana law as of July 1, as Milburn’s bill did.

Essmann’s bill, however, then sets up a plan to impose strict regulations on the medical marijuana industry, with the expressed goal of making it much harder for people with severe and chronic pain to obtain medical marijuana cards.

Here’s what Sen. Essman thinks chronic pain patients should endure to be legal:

(c) severe chronic pain that is documented by:

(i) the patient’s primary care physician and by a specialist with expertise in the disease process that is causing the pain; and

(ii) objective proof of the etiology of the pain, including diagnostic tests that include but are not limited to the results of an x-ray, computerized tomography scan, or magnetic resonance imaging;

So now you’d need to see two doctors and get expensive special scans performed.  And your primary care physician can’t just be any old doctor…

(c) has a bona fide professional relationship with the patient that has existed for at least 6 months and has included at least four visits at which the patient’s debilitating medical condition was reviewed or assessed.

So you need to see your doctor at least four times, you have to have seen your doctor for at least six months, then you need to see the second specialist doctor and get the expensive special scans performed.

While you’re at it, Sen. Essman, make sure your corporate contributors can’t be sued for discriminating against medical marijuana patients (additions to law IN CAPS):

(b) an employer to accommodate the therapeutic use of marijuana in any workplace.

(5) NOTHING IN THIS CHAPTER MAY BE CONSTRUED TO:

(A) PROHIBIT AN EMPLOYER FROM INCLUDING IN ANY CONTRACT A PROVISION PROHIBITING THE THERAPEUTIC USE OF MARIJUANA; OR

(B) PERMIT A CAUSE OF ACTION AGAINST AN EMPLOYER FOR WRONGFUL DISCHARGE PURSUANT TO 39-2-904 OR DISCRIMINATION PURSUANT TO 49-1-102.

Sen. Essman, having a registry full of medical marijuana patients, especially those using for pain, is not “abuse”.  It is a reflection of the fact that many people suffer pain and most want a safer, non-toxic remedy to deal with it.