Montana is getting closer to reforming their medical marijuana regulations. The Children, Families, Health and Human Services Interim Committee voted 7-1 Tuesday to have a bill drafted and prepared for introduction before the 2011 Legislature convenes in January.
All this is in response to the unexpected growth of medical marijuana users and businesses. A year ago, the state had fewer than 4,000 marijuana patients. Now, almost 23,000 people have a medical marijuana card.
The proposed bill supported by the committee outlines these provisions:
- Medical marijuana patients would have to be Montana residents. Current law contains no such requirement.
- Physicians certifying patients for marijuana use must meet a detailed “standard of care” that includes a physical examination, maintaining of patient records and monitoring response to the treatment.
- Patients seeking a medical marijuana card to treat “chronic pain” must get a recommendation from at least two physicians, not one. Nearly 70 percent of cardholders obtained a card after being diagnosed with chronic pain.
- Medical marijuana “caregivers,” who now can have an unlimited number of patients for whom they provide and grow marijuana, would be limited to five patients and reclassified as “providers.”
- New categories of marijuana “dispensaries” and “growers” would be created, must be licensed by the state and could grow marijuana tied to specific patients who sign up with a dispensary or provider. The businesses would provide quarterly reports on their amount of customers and marijuana grown and distributed.
- Licensed providers, growers and dispensaries would have to undergo a fingerprinting and background check by state officials. Convicted felons could not get a license, and people on parole or probation with the Department of Corrections could not get a medical marijuana card.
- The Department of Revenue would handle licensing of growers, dispensaries and providers.
- Smoking medical marijuana in “plain view of or in a place open to the general public” would be prohibited.
- Counties and cities would be allowed to use zoning regulations to restrict, but not prohibit, marijuana businesses.
This is just the start of a long legislative process, but we here at The Weed Blog will be sure to keep you posted on updates as they become available.