Lawmakers Eye Ways To Regulate MMJ or Repeal It 
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Lawmakers Eye Ways To Regulate MMJ or Repeal It 
Posted by CN Staff on December 22, 2010 at 17:40:34 PT
By Charles S. Johnson, Gazette State Bureau 
Source: Billings Gazette
Helena, MT -- Key members of the 2011 Legislature are determined to impose new regulations on a medical marijuana industry that some believe has reeled out of control the past year.Others are calling for outright repeal of the medical marijuana law enacted by a 2004 ballot measure, which 62 percent of Montanans approved, and one lawmaker wants to put the issue before voters again. One legislator believes it's time to start taxing what he believes is an industry with annual revenues approaching $150 million.
Another wants to require a three-physician panel to review a physician's recommendation that patients can use medical marijuana for "chronic pain," the most common condition for which a person is allowed to use the product.At the very least, major changes are being proposed for a Montana medical marijuana industry that was often in the news, frequently negatively, over the past year.The number of people legally allowed to use medical marijuana in Montana was at about 4,000 in September 2009. Then, the Obama administration recommended that federal prosecutors not pursue medical marijuana users and suppliers if they conformed to state law. Now, Montanans approved to use medical marijuana has skyrocketed to more than 26,000 at the end of last month.At the same time, the business experienced many problems or growing pains, depending on your perspective.A medical-marijuana shop was firebombed in Billings and a Kalispell-area man was murdered and his medical marijuana stolen.Medical-marijuana dispensaries rented hotels for traveling "cannabis clinics" where hundreds of people saw a doctor in person or over the Internet to obtain "green cards" allowing them to legally use the product. A Billings Gazette reporter obtained a green card in eight minutes."I think the public perception is this is totally out of control," said Rep. Diane Sands, D-Missoula, who headed a legislative committee that studied the issue and drafted some bills."In my opinion, the choice is passing a bill that is probably too restrictive, but it needs to pass, because the other alternative is that it will be repealed completely and be made illegal."Sands said the committee's intent "was to honor the fact that the majority of the public voted to allow limited use of medical marijuana for conditions where they thought it would provide some pain and relief or medical relief." The panel also wanted to provide additional regulation of the industry for health and public safety reasons and clarify the gray areas."The big bill is pretty substantial at this point," she said.The estimated $3 million required to regulate the industry would be paid for by licensing fees from the industry.Gov. Brian Schweitzer said he's "absolutely convinced" a large number of Montanans with medical marijuana cards don't have legitimate medical needs and just want to smoke marijuana "quasi-legally.""What we need to do is create a system so that we have people who actually have a medical need for marijuana," he said in an interview. "There will be a bill that will make it to my desk that is going to sort of close the loopholes in this medical marijuana. It needs to be done. It think currently the law is, 'smoke 'em if you got 'em.' "Tom Daubert, a leading advocate for the 2004 medical marijuana initiative, said he can't support the various proposals he's seen so far, but is confident a consensus can be reached at the Legislature.When the state Board of Medical Examiners in November required physicians to conduct "hands-on" physical examinations of patients seeking medical marijuana authorization, that effectively stopped what Daubert called the "traveling cannabis clinics.""In light of what the Board of Medical Examiners has already done, there is a risk of (the Legislature) overreacting to change aspects of the law that aren't broken in any significant way," said Daubert, a volunteer lobbyist for a medical marijuana support group who recently dissociated himself from a medical marijuana business."It's been a tragedy from my perspective on how this issue has become controversial as a result of a handful of opportunists grossly exploiting the law's gray areas and loopholes," Daubert said. "Even those who helped write and promote the law agree with law enforcement and local governments that too much of what we've seen was not envisioned, nor intended."Rep. Gary MacLaren, R-Victor, who served on the legislative panel studying the issue, said the problem with the original initiative is that it was so loosely written."You either repeal it or start over, or you can put some sideboards on it," he said.House Speaker-elect Mike Milburn, R-Cascade, is having a bill drafted to repeal the law."I've had a tremendous amount of feedback from our schools, our cities, our law enforcement about the problems associated with it," Milburn said. "All of the solutions that have come up won't remedy the problem."Sen. Jim Shockley, R-Victor, also has a repeal bill standing by if lawmakers can't put some adequate controls on the industry."It hasn't worked out," said Shockley. "There's virtually no control now, whether you're for it or against it."Daubert said repealing the law would be "as disastrous as doing nothing.""It would be disastrous for patients who genuinely use and need the medicine," he said. "It would be disastrous for the taxpayers for the state to redefine 25,000 Montanans as criminals. It would be a law enforcement nightmare when budgets are tightened."Rep. Keith Regier, R-Kalispell, said his bill will take whatever changes the 2011 Legislature makes to the medical marijuana law and put the entire issue before voters in the November 2012 election. Montanans could decide to accept the revised law or get rid of the medical marijuana law altogether."I've had a lot of constituents that said the Medical Marijuana Act (as implemented) wasn't what they thought it was," Regier said. "They said, ‘It's not what I thought I voted for.'"Sen. Dave Lewis, D-Helena, would slap a 10 percent tax on medical marijuana growers and has own ideas how to regulate it."My philosophy is it's a big industry, it's here, I don't think it's going to be repealed," he said. "In the meantime, we have to have some control of it."Sen. Jeff Essmann, R-Billings, wants to tighten up the ability for people to be able to obtain a green card for "chronic pain" by requiring an independent three-physician panel to approve the original doctor's recommendation. More than 70 percent of the green-card recipients site chronic pain as their reason."What I heard from my constituents is that most of them thought they were voting for allowing someone that's terminally ill or that had untreatable pain to receive help, not that they were setting up a system for 21-year-old ski bums with shoulder pain to get a card from out-of-state physicians over the phone," Essmann said.Source: Billings Gazette, The (MT)Author: Charles S. Johnson, Gazette State Bureau Published: Wednesday, December 22, 2010Copyright: 2010 The Billings GazetteContact: speakup billingsgazette.comWebsite: Medical Marijuana Archives 
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Comment #6 posted by dongenero on December 23, 2010 at 07:33:16 PT
Double down?
I'll see your medical marijuana repeal legislation and raise you one legalization referendum.These officials are giving a clear display of how Democracy is wrested from the hands of voters despite voter referendums.
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Comment #5 posted by FoM on December 23, 2010 at 07:26:46 PT
I did hear about Robertson. I hope that people who lean in his direction get it. 
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Comment #4 posted by josephlacerenza on December 23, 2010 at 06:58:01 PT
Pat Robertson Loves Pot
Oh mo gosh, did you see this?!!!
Shock: Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson favors marijuana legalization
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Comment #3 posted by josephlacerenza on December 23, 2010 at 06:33:08 PT
Starting a business of any sort is difficult. Starting a marijuana based business is even harder. You have to be prepared for them, state or feds, to take it all from you. There is no way they will repeal the law. They, the state, have made way too much money to have that happen. This is a large state with few people. It is an agrarian based economy, and cannabis fits right in with the true Montanan's way of life. The fact that I have a job in this economy is saying something. Having a business that is not completely in the red, amazing. 
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Comment #2 posted by Vincent on December 23, 2010 at 06:18:18 PT:
They just don't change
Didn't you notice that all the pliticians with an "R" after their name are the ones that are clling for repeal. And they always say the same things over and over again. For example:"I've had a tremendous amount of feedback from our schools, our cities, our law enforcement about the problems associated with it,"Why do these knuckleheads always listen to the pigs--oops! I meant "law enforcement"--and never to the voters? They never change, do they?
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Comment #1 posted by The GCW on December 23, 2010 at 05:52:19 PT
YES, regulate it; that is legalize it.
Full on legalize and regulate the God-given plant and the problems associated with prohibition and medical cannabis go away. Truth includes cannabis. 
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