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The Fight Over Medical Marijuana Laws in MT and NM

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In the fourteen years since 1996, when California voters became the first in the nation to enact legislation authorizing the physician-supervised use, possession, and cultivation of medical cannabis, there has never been a single state that has opted to repeal these patient protections. But that trend may change this spring.


On Friday, February 4, members of Montana House Human Services Committee, voted along party lines to pass House Bill 161, which would repeal the state’s existing medical cannabis law. All Republicans on the Committee voted ‘yes,’ while all Democrats on the Committee voted ‘no.’ The majority’s decision to ‘do pass’ came despite an overwhelming outpouring of public testimony against the measure from local patients and advocates.

This draconian measure now awaits action from the Republican majority full House. It is anticipated that the House may act on HB 161 as early as this Tuesday!

Opponents of Montana’s six-year-old medical marijuana law are falsely claiming that the law has been associated with a rise in youth drug use and traffic fatalities. NORML has provided a line-by-line rebuttal to these allegations here. For example, there were 221 traffic fatalities for 2008 (the last year for which data is available). In the two years prior to the law’s passage, there were 269 and 262 fatal traffic fatalities. Regarding teen marijuana use, according to federal data, marijuana use fell in Montana from 2004 (the year the law was passed) to 2008 by almost 30 percent. These and other specious claims by a handful of critics are not a valid reason to repeal Montana’s law. (For a compete statistical breakdown of the Montana medical program, click here.)


In New Mexico, newly elected Republican Governor Susana Martinez hinted to the Associated Press last week that she is backing off — for the time being, at least — her campaign promise to repeal the state’s three-year-old medical cannabis law. Under present law, some 3,200 patients are authorized to grow and use cannabis medically, and 25 private cultivators are licensed by the state to produce and dispense medical marijuana for sale. According to the AP, Martinez now says that dismantling the law is “not a priority in the 2011 legislative session,” though the new Governor admits that she continues to oppose it.


As a movement, it is imperative that we do not lose those gains that so many of us worked so hard to achieve. Successful passage of HB 181 would instantly criminalize over 28,000 Montanans who, as of today, are protected under existing law.

If you live in Montana, please make sure that your House member has heard from you. You can contact him or her by visiting NORML’s ‘Take Action’ Center here. Montana NORML also has an action alert here that allows you to send e-mails to the full House opposing HB 161. Please consider following up any e-mail correspondences with a personal phone call. You can also get involved by contacting our allies Patients & Families United and following their legislative updates on facebook here or sign up for their e-mail alerts at:


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