Shutdown of Montana Dispensaries Feared in Wake of Court Ruling

A mass shut-down of cannabis dispensaries in Big Sky Country is feared after a ruling last week made by the Montana Supreme Court. 

In a 6-1 decision, the high court upheld provisions of the state's restrictive medical marijuana law passed in 2011, finding them a "rational response" to the dramatic increase in users. The provisions limit providers to no more than three patients each and impose other restrictions, including a ban on advertising.

In one victory for the state's burgeoning cannabis industry, a provision that banned providers from receiving compensation was struck down.

But the ruling was still harshly assailed by the Montana Cannabis Industry Association, which brought the legal challenge. 

James Goetz, the attorney representing the plaintiffs, told MTN News, "It seems, bottom line, pretty irrational."  

He pointed out that Montana's restrictive law runs counter to regional trends.

"You can drive two states over and buy it without a medical card, and people seem to survive," he said.

Goetz said his client may consider an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Montana voters approved medical marijuana in a 2004 initiative, but the 2011 legislation essentially replaced that law.

The backlash was sparked by an explosion in the number of users over the past year, from about 1,000 to more than 25,000 statewide, with some businesses operating out of traveling "caravans" that quickly diagnosed people for maladies that can be treated with cannabis. After the 2011 law was passed, registered users rapidly dropped to below 12,000.  

The Montana Cannabis Industry Association had challenged the new law as an unconstitutional restriction on their business. 

(Photo Courtesy of Flathead Beacon)

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