Panel Finishing Up Medical Pot Bill 
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Panel Finishing Up Medical Pot Bill 
Posted by CN Staff on April 19, 2011 at 18:16:06 PT
By Charles S. Johnson, Gazette State Bureau 
Source: Billings Gazette
Helena, MT --  A committee passed out a much-amended bill Tuesday to repeal Montana's medical marijuana law and enact a far stricter law that would close growing and dispensing operations, squeeze profits out of a booming industry and make it harder to get a marijuana-user card.A Senate-House conference committee unanimously endorsed the amended version of Senate Bill 423, by Sen. Jeff Essmann, R-Billings. It will go to the Senate and House floors for votes later this week.
It is the last surviving medical-marijuana bill that has passed both chambers remaining in the session. Gov. Brian Schweitzer last week vetoed a bill that called for an outright repeal of the state's voter-passed medical marijuana law.The six-member committee met for more than eight hours over two days and adopted more than 160 amendments to SB423 before approving the final product."I think we have accomplished a great deal with respect to dealing with the problem areas as were identified by the public, by the interim committee, by this Legislature through a series of hearings and meetings and discussions on a successive number of bills," Essmann told reporters afterward.Asked if he believes Schweitzer will sign the amended SB423 into law if it passes both chambers, Essmann said, "I'm optimistic he'll do what's right for the people of Montana and the children of Montana and adopt what I see as a very common-sense reform proposal."The bill seeks to rein in a thriving multimillion-dollar industry whose critics and even some of its supporters contend has careened far out of control since the fall of 2009. That's when the Obama administration's Justice Department said it wouldn't go after medical marijuana users who obey the laws in states that legalized medical pot.The number of Montana's medical marijuana cardholders has skyrocketed to nearly 30,000 as of last month, up from 3,900 in September 2009. Many were signed up through "cannabis caravans," or traveling clinics, where critics said patients spent little time with a physician, often one from out of state via the Internet. A Billings Gazette writer reported it took her eight minutes to get a card.A key change adopted Tuesday was a definition for "severe chronic pain" for people eligible for medical marijuana.It seeks to tighten requirements that critics and legislators say that have let thousands of people obtain medical marijuana cards by claiming severe or chronic pain with little proof.Using some language suggested by the state Board of Medical Examiners, the committee defined chronic pain as "persistent pain of severe intensity that significantly interferes with daily activities as documented by a patient's treating physician; and by objective proof of the etiology of the pain, including diagnostic tests that may include but are not limited to the results of an x-ray, computerized tomography or magnetic imaging, or confirmation of that diagnosis from a second physician independent of the treating physician who conducts a physical examination."Essmann added the part about the second physician conducting the physical exam.Earlier in the session, Essmann said he wanted to pass a bill that would cut the number of people holding medical marijuana cards to less than 2,000.On Tuesday, he wasn't making any predictions."The committee adopted a gradual expiration of the existing cards," he said. "Those should expire under their own terms. Obviously renewals will be under the terms of the new law enacted. I'm assuming we've taken great strides that all new cardholders will be legitimate cardholders."The bill will eliminate the current system of major growers and storefront dispensaries and ban any advertising.Instead, patients with a card can grow their own marijuana. Or they may have it grown by providers (formerly known as caregivers). However, under the new proposal, providers could not be compensated  except for a one-time $500 startup fee from a card-holder.Providers may grow medical pot for up to three people, including themselves, but again without compensation. Unlike a previous version, providers could grow it for one person and up to two relatives, but that idea was dropped.Besides Essmann, others on the conference committee were Sens. Chas Vincent, R-Libby, and Cliff Larsen, D-Missoula, and Reps. Cary Smith, R-Billings, Tom Berry, R-Roundup, and Diane Sands, D-Missoula.Source: Billings Gazette, The (MT)Author: Charles S. Johnson, Gazette State Bureau Published:   April 19, 2011Copyright: 2011 The Billings GazetteContact: speakup billingsgazette.comWebsite: Medical Marijuana Archives 
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Comment #1 posted by Sam Adams on April 19, 2011 at 21:59:17 PT
Rogues Gallery
Besides Essmann, others on the conference committee were Sens. Chas Vincent, R-Libby, and Cliff Larsen, D-Missoula, and Reps. Cary Smith, R-Billings, Tom Berry, R-Roundup, and Diane Sands, D-Missoula.Wow, I hope the governor vetoes this!!!
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