MMJ Numbers Drop as Uncertainty Surrounds Industry

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  MMJ Numbers Drop as Uncertainty Surrounds Industry

Posted by CN Staff on February 19, 2012 at 04:17:25 PT
By Charles S. Johnson, Gazette State Bureau  
Source: Billings Gazette 

Helena -- The number of medical marijuana cardholders in Montana continues to plummet while the number of legal marijuana providers is a fraction of its peak, as the industry faces an uncertain future here. In 2011, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 423, a much more restrictive law that reduced the number of cardholders. Then there were several dozen federal raids of medical marijuana growing operations, along with the arrests and convictions of some owners.
Since the law took effect in July 2011, the state has seen the number of medical marijuana cardholders drop by nearly half. The number of providers now is less than 10 percent of the peak. "Senate Bill 423 certainly had an impact," said Roy Kemp, the chief medical marijuana regulator in the state Department of Public Health and Human Services. "Federal activities certainly have had an impact. The bill made it very difficult for providers to enter the field, as it were." John Masterson of Missoula, executive director of Montana NORML, a group working to legalize marijuana in the state, put it more bluntly. "The federal raids have terrified so many legitimate providers that are otherwise law-abiding providers, who are closing their doors all over the place," Masterson said. That, in turn, "cuts off the legal supply to patients that benefit from this herb," he said. Under the 2011 law, all caregivers' license cards became invalid on July 1, 2011. Those wanting to continue to legally grow and sell marijuana for medical reasons had to register with the department to get provider cards. In January, Montana had 15,984 medical marijuana cardholders registered with the state's medical marijuana program in the Department of Public Health and Human Services. That's the lowest monthly total since 13,885 people in April 2010. It's a little less than half of the peak in May 2011, when the Montana cardholders, then called patients, totaled 31,522.By the end of January, Montana had 417 legal medical marijuana providers -- the people who legally grow and sell medical pot for licensed cardholders -- after peaking at 4,848 in March 2011, according to the state's statistics. Providers were called caregivers until the 2011 law took effect. The new law prohibited anyone with any felony conviction or any misdemeanor drug conviction from being medical marijuana providers. And the number of physicians who can recommend the use of medical marijuana was at 274 in January, after peaking at 365 in June 2010. Regardless of the medical marijuana statistical trends, Masterson said the people who use marijuana in Montana have not disappeared. Renewals Dropping Under Montana law, medical marijuana cardholders must renew their cards annually. "We're losing about 51 percent of renewals," Kemp said. "That seems to be the trend. If that trend continues, we'll end up with 12,000-13,000 (cardholders) by May." State officials don't know why cardholders aren't renewing to get new cards. "When they don't renew, they don't talk to us," Kemp said. "They just fade away." Kemp said the number of new applications for medical marijuana cards is increasing slightly. He said 181 people applied in January and 190 in December. Reform or Repeal? Last year, medical marijuana was one of the hottest issues facing the Republican-controlled Legislature. Many lawmakers were determined to crack down on the industry, if not repeal the 2004 voter-passed initiative that legalized the use of marijuana in Montana for some medicinal purposes. Gov. Brian Schweitzer, a Democrat, vetoed a bill that would have repealed the 2004 initiative legalizing medical marijuana. After the veto, the Legislature then passed SB423 to impose more restrictions on the industry, which many thought was out of control. "Cannabis caravans" had crisscrossed the state and issued cards by the hundreds, if not thousands, to patients. Some people got their cards after brief consultations with physicians, sometimes in person and sometimes via the Internet. Storefronts popped up to sell medical pot to licensed patients. SB423 became law without the governor's signature. Its sponsor, Senate Majority Leader Jeff Essmann, R-Billings, said the law made two major changes that sought to reduce the number of certified medical marijuana cardholders. First, he said, the law imposed stricter requirements for people to obtain a doctor's recommendation for "severe or chronic pain," which had become by far the most common reason cited by people to obtain medical marijuana cards. "They had to have objective proof or a second doctor's recommendation," Essmann said. Objective proof means medical evidence of the person's chronic or severe pain through an X-ray or MRI or other diagnosis. The number of people obtaining medical marijuana cards for "severe or chronic pain" has shrunk from 23,015 in May 2011 to 10,255 in January 2012. The law also tightened medical standards for those physicians who recommended medical marijuana to many patients. Essmann's bill called for the Department of Public Health and Human Services to report to the state Board of Medical Examiners the names of any physicians recommending medical marijuana for more than 25 patients over a 12-month period. The law empowered the board to review the practices of these physicians. This was one of several provisions in the law that District Judge James Reynolds of Helena temporarily blocked on June 30, 2011 -- the day before the law went into effect. Other parts of the law took effect. Both the state attorney general's office, which is defending the law, and the Montana Cannabis Industry Association, which wants it struck down, have appealed parts of his ruling to the Montana Supreme Court. The court has not yet heard the appeals. Meanwhile, last year, opponents of SB423 mounted an effort and quickly gathered more than 36,000 signatures for a referendum on the law in November. Montanans will decide then whether to retain or reject the law. At the same time, marijuana backers are gathering signatures for a separate ballot measure asserting that it's the constitutional right of adults to legally consume marijuana in Montana, regardless of their medical condition. "We're going to have a vote in the fall," Essmann said. "People will make a decision whether they want to go back to the Wild West, whether they want to bring storefronts back, and whether they want to have an industry again. "If not, they should leave (SB) 423 in law," he said. Masterson said there may be a Supreme Court decision on SB423 by then, plus the possibility of two ballot issues addressing marijuana. "There are a lot of moving parts," he said. "It's anybody's guess how it's going to play out."Source: Billings Gazette, The (MT)Author: Charles S. Johnson, Gazette State Bureau Published: Sunday, February 19, 2012Copyright: 2012 The Billings GazetteContact: speakup billingsgazette.comWebsite: Medical Marijuana Archives 

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Comment #25 posted by FoM on February 23, 2012 at 14:28:08 PT
Bill Maher Tonight Live 
Crazy Stupid Politics:
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #24 posted by afterburner on February 23, 2012 at 10:08:57 PT
josephlacerenza #23 & FoM #22
Congratulations on your breakthrough. Here is an older related story that was probably not covered at the time here:Testing pot in a legal vacuum.
Few standards apply to quality of marijuana, because the federal government considers all use illegal.
  * Mark Raber prepares marijuana samples to be analyzed at his brother's lab, one of dozens to open in the last two years. But the labs are as unregulated and vulnerable to prosecution as dispensaries and growers.
(Mel Melcon, Los Angeles Times).
February 12, 2012 | By Joe Mozingo, Los Angeles Times cover story image "Private labs are testing pot in a legal vacuum" [seen in "How newspapers handled news of Whitney Houston's death (courtesy of
13 of 51" scroll down]. This slide show is where I just discovered the "testing pot" story. 
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #23 posted by josephlacerenza on February 23, 2012 at 08:48:41 PT
I Got Some NEWS!!
Grow Buddy Thin Layer Chromatography Home Test Kit THC CBD CBN UPDATE! JustTLC Software Use with Grow Buddy and Montana Biotech's TLC Standards to get the most accurate results for cannabinoid quantification at HOME!
Grow Buddy Test Kit UPDATE!
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #22 posted by FoM on February 23, 2012 at 07:51:31 PT
I agree. I look forward to the day when the laws are changed and all of this stops.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #21 posted by dongenero on February 23, 2012 at 07:45:41 PT
Natl. Geographic special
I have not seen the program but, in general.....What sells reality TV shows is not normal, functional people. What sells TV is dramatic. dysfunctional people, people on the edge of disaster, strange personalities. Things that appear sensational and unusual to the watcher. Things that tend to make the watcher feel they are so much more together and "normal".
It's about drama, dysfunction, conflict. It would probably have few viewers if people tuned in and all the characters were highly functioning business people, hard workers trying to make a living, creative, thoughtful, intelligent and well balanced. Though most would be (as much as anyone) reality.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #20 posted by FoM on February 23, 2012 at 05:04:16 PT
Still No News
I hope everyone is enjoying this very slow time. I don't know which one will be the Republican nominee but it will be Santorum or Romney. I don't know what makes them think like they do. It seems only rich people matter to them and only care how to benefit them. They just can't even fake caring for the majority of working Americans. I watched the new marijuana series on National Geographic. I don't want to be to hard on the series but why can't they find people who look like they represent our issue with a little more style? If people would watch this series and be on the fence about medical marijuana it might leave a bad taste in their mouth. I don't know whose side National Geographic is on. Weed Wars was a little more balanced in my opinion.
[ Post Comment ]


Comment #19 posted by FoM on February 22, 2012 at 18:34:28 PT

A new laptop how cool! The Republicans are really strange to me. They love war because it makes implements of destruction and that makes money for some of them. Abortion, religion and things that aren't important seem like all they want to talk about. They give me a headache.
[ Post Comment ]


Comment #18 posted by afterburner on February 22, 2012 at 18:10:54 PT

Hi FoM & Hope
I'm finally back online on my new laptop. I don't understand those Republicans either. They just seem to make up things.Peace.
[ Post Comment ]


Comment #17 posted by FoM on February 22, 2012 at 17:55:07 PT

I am watching the Republican debate on CNN and don't understand anything any of them are trying to say. I'll be glad when we know who will run against Obama and then our issue can become important again. 
[ Post Comment ]


Comment #16 posted by Hope on February 22, 2012 at 15:56:56 PT

Their news is usually at the top of the que for the US news.
[ Post Comment ]


Comment #15 posted by FoM on February 22, 2012 at 07:12:01 PT

Thank you for the link. I keep looking for a good news article to post but the Republicans running for president seem to be getting all the air time and writer's attention. Maybe when they finally figure out if it will be Santorum or Romney we might get to find out what they would do about the drug war and marijuana.
[ Post Comment ]


Comment #14 posted by Hope on February 21, 2012 at 20:04:51 PT

Seattle mayor: Legalize marijuana
so we can stop crime tip to Pete at DrugWarRant
[ Post Comment ]


Comment #13 posted by FoM on February 21, 2012 at 09:23:58 PT

Thank you. I have it set up to record. I hope it is good and not negative.
[ Post Comment ]


Comment #12 posted by The GCW on February 21, 2012 at 09:18:23 PT

US CO: National Geographic Channel spotlights Fort Collins in series on pot wars    
Pubdate: 19 Feb. 2012
Source: Denver Post (CO)Colorado's medical marijuana business is booming, as is the national media coverage on the issue, depicting Colorado as the cutting edge in what could be a national move to legalize pot.The story is catnip to TV producers: controversial, emotional, young- skewing and photogenic: the buds, the smoke, the giant greenhouses! All you need are a few eccentric characters who will let you film them inhaling; a vocal opponent, and a gaggle of hardy brothers whose giant growing operation boasts "Bubba Kush" as their top seller.National Geographic Channel found them.Add to the already abundant crop of films about Colorado's pot industry a National Geographic series — exploring growers, retailers, patients, cops, opponents and the political firestorm in one picturesque town."American Weed," premiering Wednesday at 8 p.m. on NGC, zeroes in on a Fort Collins family confronting the forces who aim to restrict the legality of medical marijuana dispensaries.Cont
[ Post Comment ]


Comment #11 posted by afterburner on February 20, 2012 at 09:56:05 PT

 ekim #9
Thanks, ekim. That was a great read and a keeper. 
peter tosh - bush doctor [ 83 holland ] 
[ Post Comment ]


Comment #10 posted by afterburner on February 20, 2012 at 08:52:52 PT

Q & A
Q: { "State officials don't know why cardholders aren't renewing to get new cards.'When they don't renew, they don't talk to us,' Kemp said. 'They just fade away.'" }A: "No need to smoke and hide when you know you're takin' a legal ride." --Peter Tosh"Prohibition will work great injury to the cause of temperance. It is a species of intemperance within itself, for it goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man's appetite by legislation, and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes. A Prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded" -Abraham Lincoln"Make the most of the Indian hemp seed, and sow it everywhere!" - George Washington"If any government wishes to succeed in protecting adolescents and young people against any ill effects (their supposition - not mine) that they perceive from cannabis use in these age groups, then they need to be getting started with formulating a regulatory system for the supply and use of cannabis that incorporates workable laws for non-adult use. At the moment, young people have no protection at all."
--The Reasonable Working Alternative to Cannabis Prohibition
Peter Tosh - Legalize it live 
[ Post Comment ]


Comment #9 posted by ekim on February 20, 2012 at 08:46:02 PT

found at Happy Pres Day
[ Post Comment ]


Comment #8 posted by FoM on February 20, 2012 at 08:13:25 PT

You're great! Love ya fella!
[ Post Comment ]


Comment #7 posted by runruff on February 20, 2012 at 08:01:16 PT

Thanks Kiddo!
I wrote a post this morning and lost it. I suppose we will all survive without it? Every week I solve the world's problems, by the week-end I have to start all over again anyways!It ain't easy being a legend in My own mind!Truth is; I spend most days just stacking up what I did yesterday!
[ Post Comment ]


Comment #6 posted by FoM on February 20, 2012 at 07:36:41 PT

What do you mean? You are never in bad taste.
[ Post Comment ]


Comment #5 posted by runruff on February 20, 2012 at 06:58:32 PT

Was I in bad taste?
[ Post Comment ]


Comment #4 posted by josephlacerenza on February 20, 2012 at 06:38:54 PT

Patients are No Longer Patients...
They are now cardholders... Caregivers are now providers... Such negative connotations. If you have relatives in Montana, keninsj, have them check out MontanaFirst be a patient (cardholder) in Montana all you need to do is the same as before, period. The real change came to providers, or patients that want to provide their own medicine. If your relatives are willing to sign up a provider, it is the provider that must go through the legal hoops of registering with the state as a grower of cannabis. More info on SB423
!!BREAKTHROUGH!! Hermaphrodite test for your cannabis plants!
[ Post Comment ]


Comment #3 posted by Paul Pot on February 19, 2012 at 21:06:12 PT:

These ongoing attacks on medical marijuana seem to indicate that legalizing for medical purposes is no longer a viable strategy as it does not give freedom or overcome policing problems. It was great for getting the ball rolling but now it is going to have to be full legalization cause the the feds are no longer scared of puny state laws. They intend to keep coming out with all guns blazing. 
Support your local ballot initiative to ''Repeal Prohibition''.
It matters this year more than ever before, especially because they really could pass this year.
Legalize in 2012

[ Post Comment ]


Comment #2 posted by keninsj on February 19, 2012 at 18:23:35 PT:

One reason for card holders not renewing.
I have a family member in Montana who used to be a card carrier, they did not renew because the new law requires all card holders information be given to the authorities. I have not read the law myself, but I'm pretty confident that my family member did and this is probably correct. They suffer form conditions that would stand up the the scrutiny of the new law such as fibromyalgia. They don't want their information given the the authorities.
[ Post Comment ]


Comment #1 posted by The GCW on February 19, 2012 at 05:53:14 PT

US CO: Legalization Effort Adds Names satire comment:Upcoming Breaking News: Scott Gessler decides to throw out all but 2,408 of the newer signatures, conveniently shutting down the legalization bill. Mexican cartels, the DEA & for-profit penal institution CEOs celebrate in the street. 
[ Post Comment ]

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