In April 2010, the Children, Families, Health, and Human Services Interim Committee decided to review issues related to the Montana Medical Marijuana Act. The committee acted in response to questions being raised across the state because of the growth in the number of people registered to use medical marijuana and to grow marijuana for medical purposes.
Presiding Officer Diane Sands appointed a subcommittee on June 28 to draft legislation to address some of the issues that have arisen. Subcommittee members are Rep. Sands, Rep. Gary MacLaren, Rep. Penny Morgan, and Sen. Trudi Schmidt.
Before the subcommittee was appointed, committee staff members worked with state agency representatives and a work group of interested parties to develop ideas for revisions to the law. The full committee reviewed those recommendations at its June 28 meeting. It then created the subcommittee to continue work on the issue
The subcommittee met three times from late June to mid-August and recommended a number of changes to Montana's law. Key changes include:
establishing a regulatory system that will license and inspect individuals and businesses that grow and provide medical marijuana;
allowing the creation of medical marijuana dispensaries;
placing a ceiling on the amount of marijuana that may be dispensed to a person each month;
requiring people to be Montana residents in order to use medical marijuana;
spelling out the standard of care physicians are expected to meet in certifying that a patient qualifies for medical marijuana use;
prohibiting any financial relationships between physicians and the businesses or individuals who provide medical marijuana;
prohibiting use of medical marijuana in public; and
repealing a legal defense available to people who may be in possession of marijuana without a registry card or in amounts greater than allowed by law.
The full committee reviewed and took comment on three bill drafts related to medical marijuana on Aug. 23. The committee voted on Aug. 24 to propose all three bills to the 2011 Legislature as committee legislation, after reviewing and approving changes that committee members had requested on Aug. 23.
The committee took public comment on the proposed legislation through Sept. 1. Throughout the period the committee worked on this issue, members received copies of all public comment received electronically and by mail. The committee also received a summary of the public comment received through Aug. 23 at its final meeting of the interim.
The next opportunity for the public to comment will occur when the bills are heard and acted on during the 2011 Legislature.