HELENA, MT — The House Human Services Committee rejected and tabled four separate marijuana related bills on Friday that would have restored parts of Montana’s voter-approved 2004 medical marijuana law.
The House Human Services Committee voted down House bills 340-343, all sponsored by Rep. Kelly McCarthy (D-Billings) on identical 12-4 votes. Overall, 10 Republicans and two Democrats opposed the bills, while four Democrats supported them.
The bills were aimed at restoring parts of Montana’s medical marijuana program decimated by 2011’s Senate Bill 423, which essentially gutted Montana’s then-flourishing medical marijuana industry in the state.
When the state’s 2004 voter-approved medical marijuana law took effect, the Montana medical marijuana scene took off, with dispensaries and multi-patient grow operations sprouting up.
The legislature first attempted outright repeal, followed by SB 423, which essentially eliminated every part of the medical marijuana program except patients growing their own cannabis.
Growers were limited to three patients each, providers were prohibited from being compensated, local governments were given the ability to ban dispensaries, standards were tightened for qualification, and required doctors who recommended marijuana for more than 25 patients in a year to undergo reviews at their own expense.
The bills tabled Friday were aimed at restoring some parts of the voter-approved 2004 law:
- HB340 would have eliminated a provision in the law requiring the Board of Medical Examiners to automatically review any physicians who have issued written certification for medical marijuana for more than 25 people in any 12-month period.
- HB341 would have allowed medical marijuana providers to be paid for providing marijuana to cardholders. The 2011 law made compensation illegal.
- HB342 would have removed the three-person limit on the number of cardholders that medical marijuana providers could serve. There had been no limit previously.
- HB343 would have eliminated requirements that providers keep records and the law’s provision allowing for automatic inspections.
Earlier this year, a Montana judge blocked some parts of SB 423 , saying registered cardholders would be “irreparably harmed” if providers go out of business because a state law limits them to three patients and doesn’t allow them to make a profit.