Senate Panel Passes MMJ Overhaul 
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Senate Panel Passes MMJ Overhaul 
Posted by CN Staff on March 25, 2011 at 20:23:47 PT
By Charles S. Johnson, IR State Bureau 
Source: Helena Independent Record
Montana -- The Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday approved a bill that will repeal Montana's current medical marijuana law and replace it with a much stricter regulatory system designed to drastically reduce the number of cardholders and squeeze the profits out of the industry.Senate Bill 423, by Sen. Jeff Essmann, R-Billings, cleared the committee by a 10-2 vote after some major amendments, including the repeal language, and will be heard by the full Senate on Monday. The current law would be repealed July 1, with the bill setting up a transition schedule.
The 49-page bill was written in less than a week by a three-member subcommittee and is on the legislative fast track, at least in the Senate. It was heard in committee earlier in the day and received a mixed review.The haste bothered Sen. Greg Hinkle, R-Thompson Falls, who voted against the bill."I think we've gone way too fast on this thing," he said.Also opposing the bill was Sen. Larry Jent, D-Bozeman, who favors a repeal.But Sen. Anders Blewett, D-Great Falls, said, "I think this bill moves us in the right direction. The number of cardholders is going to diminish dramatically. We need to do something about medical marijuana. The people of Montana want us to regulate it."He said he fears if this bill fails to pass, voters will repeal the 2004 voter-passed law, depriving those people who need medical marijuana of access to the product.Critics say the industry has reeled out of control since the fall of 2009, with thousands of people, including many in their 20s, obtaining cards, and needs to be reined in considerably.Defenders of the current law have criticized lawmakers for repealing a law that 62 percent of the voters passed in 2004. Some people have testified that medical marijuana has helped treat a variety of maladies far better than narcotics prescribed to them by doctors.From the start of the subcommittee work, Essmann made it clear his goal is to dramatically reduce the number of people with cards authorizing them to use medical marijuana from the current 28,300 people to no more than 2,000 by making it harder for people to get cards for severe and chronic pain. He and some legislators believe that is where the current law is being abused.He also wanted to impose a strict regulatory system to get rid of the abuses that he believes the current system has spawned.The bill would ban the storefront medical marijuana dispensaries that have cropped up around the state and forbid any advertising by anyone involved in medical marijuana.It would make the Montana Public Service Commission the licensing agency under HB423, an assignment the commission unanimously opposes.If HB423 passes the Senate, it could face a serious challenge in the House, where Speaker Mike Milburn, R-Cascade, is in favor of a repeal, not stricter regulation.Senate Judiciary Chairman Terry Murphy, R-Cardwell, assigned a subcommittee to draft a new bill after the panel deadlocked on Milburn's HB161, a repeal bill, earlier this month, and it was apparent that the bill lacked the votes to pass the Senate.Besides Essmann, others on the subcommittee were Sens. Cliff Larsen, D-Missoula, and Chas Vincent, R-Libby.Source: Helena Independent Record (MT)Author: Charles S. Johnson, IR State Bureau Published: March 25, 2011Copyright: 2011 Helena Independent RecordWebsite: irstaff helenair.comURL: Medical Marijuana Archives 
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Comment #3 posted by Hope on March 26, 2011 at 16:18:57 PT
423 this time? I think I see what they're up to...
They want the word "Repeal" in this. That word is obviously, extremely important to the lawmakers that are behind these efforts. It's a gift to all other prohibitionists, nation wide and world wide. What a great "Tool" in they're fight against better laws... progress. These prohibitionists, seemingly, must have the word "Repeal" involved in any new regulations they design. Somewhere, somehow. I'd say, so they can say... "Montana repealed it because it was such a bad, horrible thing". They are very "Cunning", but they are not "Gentle".Most prohibitionists think they are being exceedingly righteous, but they are not. They are hurting people. Prohibitionists are not protecting their fellow human and citizen from harm and danger. They have actually become the harm and danger. Prohibitionists might be protecting some of the interests of industry and business, including the prohibition industry, sometimes, from which some of them draw their paycheck. But our representative government should be protecting the people from big industry and business and protecting the citizen's rights, instead of the other way around, the way it is now. Industry is vital to the worker and the worker is vital to industry. There needs to be balance and respect for one another for both of them to be at their most successful. In a right thinking world the money that industry gives to government to buy the favor of lawmakers should be added to the wages of the workers.
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Comment #2 posted by Hope on March 26, 2011 at 15:32:03 PT
HB 161
It's like the villain in a horror story. You can never be sure it's really dead.
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Comment #1 posted by josephlacerenza on March 26, 2011 at 13:18:13 PT
REPEAL in Montana, DEAD?
Montana NORML
The Senate just attempted to revive HB 161 (repeal), and it failed on a vote of 23-25. So, it would seem HB 161 is truly dead now.
Montana NORML's Facebook Page
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