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Montana medical marijuana veto referendum filed in response to legislation

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May 13, 2011


By Al Ortiz

HELENA, Montana: Senate Bill 423 was introduced during 2011 state legislative session to generally revise the 2004 medical marijuana legalization initiative that was approved by voters during the general election that year. According to the text of the measure, SB 423 would create a registry program for "limited" cultivation and manufacturing of the drug for medical purposes, among other revisions. In short, the measure acts as a reform bill to impose stricter regulations on medical marijuana. The measure was slated to become a law on May 13, 2011, without the signature from the governor.

In response to this, a medical marijuana veto referendum was filed in order to place this legislation before voters, instead of making the bill a law automatically. The initiative to place the legislation on the ballot was filed with the Montana Secretary of State by John Masterson of Montana Cannabis Industry Association on May 12, 2011. The initiative still needs to be approved by the Secretary of State before it can circulate for signatures.

The proposed statement of purpose of the veto referendum reads:

In 2004, 62% of Montana voters passed I-148 to create a medical marijuana program for certain patients. SB423 repeals that voter initiative entirely and creates a new program that requires doctors to pay the costs of being investigated for every recommendation made to more than 25 patients; requires pain patients to see two doctors if they lack proof of their pain's etiology; requires providers to produce marijuana free to patients regardless of cost and to provide their fingerprints to the FBI and Department of Justice; and provides no legal way to obtain cannabis seeds and plants.

Marijuana on the ballot

To read more on the legislation that is looking to revise the 2004 measure, click here.

State lawmakers had previously tried to repeal the 2004 measure outright with House Bill 161. HB 161 passed through both the Montana House of Representatives and the Montana State Senate, which only left the Governor of Montana to sign the measure for it to become a law. The measure was vetoed by Governor of Montana Brian Schweitzer on April 13, 2011 stating that the repeal was contrary to the decision voters made in 2004. The governor stated, "There were many people out there who said there is a medicine out there that is not currently legal." Schweitzer also stated, though, that stricter regulations on medical marijuana are needed, declaring, "I'm not a doctor, but we have heard from doctors and patients that this medicine helps them. Do we need 28,000 (medical marijuana) patients? I doubt it."

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