Montana’s vast rural spaces make getting patients to doctors who would recommend medical marijuana extremely difficult. This situation led to enterprising providers taking doctors to the patients, where hundreds would gather at a rented meeting space to get their recommendations. Soon, another provider began offering recommendations via video examinations conducted on Skype.
The combination of unforeseen dispensaries, doctor caravans and video visits was too much for the Montana legislature, and in 2011 it passed a bill to completely repeal the 2004 initiative. Only the veto pen of then-Governor Brian Schweitzer saved the program.
Rebuffed, the legislature came back with Senate Bill 423, which the governor signed. That law seriously scaled back the Montana program, including limiting caregivers to serving just three patients, which destroyed the viability of the dispensaries. The law also subjects doctors to medical board scrutiny if they recommend marijuana for more than 25 patients in a year.
Voters had the chance to fix this in 2012 when medical marijuana activists got IR-124 on the ballot, which would have overturned SB 423. However, it was one of those confusing election situations where one had to vote “no” in order to express “yes, overturn the bad law,” and IR-124 got an insufficient 57% of the vote, maintaining the SB 423 restrictions.
The activist community has now placed Initiative 182 on the November ballot. It would fix the problems created by SB 423 by allowing providers to cultivate and dispense marijuana in store-fronts by removing mandatory oversight on doctors’ recommendations and by limiting the ability of law enforcement to conduct unannounced inspections.
The Montana Cannabis Industry Association has ponied up most of the more than $50,000 contributed to the I-182 campaign. But they’re being out-raised by Billings car dealer Stephen Zabawa, who’s contributed $100,000 to defeat I-182. His own Initiative 176, under the aegis of the group Safe Montana, sought to repeal the medical marijuana law altogether, but it failed to make the ballot.
— Russ Belville
This is part of Freedom Leaf’s 2016 State-By-State Ballot Initiative Guide.