Medical marijuana providers in Montana are anticipating a crisis after the State Supreme court upheld a 2011 law last week, pushing back on the outcomes of a 2004 ballot in which citizens voted to legalize medical marijuana.
The latest ruling determines that each provider can now only supply a maximum of three patients. Advertising marijuana products will also be illegal. But it’s the three-patient-per-dispensary limit, which risks leaving many thousands of patients without access to medicine, that is most troubling.
Mort Reid, of the Montana Cannabis Information Association, is hoping that his organization, which filed a lawsuit against the 2011 law, will get another court hearing. But he thinks it unlikely: “My advice to all the providers across the state is in two weeks’ time, don’t be out of compliance,” he told the Associated Press.
The majority of dispensaries in Montana have already shut down thanks to the 2011 law, and this ruling will send shock-waves through the wider industry. According to Reid, patients are terrified of how the newly court-approved regulations will affect them and have been trying to stockpile cannabis legally before the court’s decision takes effect on March 10.
“It’s gonna leave 12,000 people without access,” Sara Bradford, a Montana resident who volunteers as a consultant for medical marijuana dispensaries, tells The Influence. “Providers can now only provide up to three people; because these providers will have to choose which three, it means turning away people with HIV, glaucoma and cancer. Patients are feeling pretty helpless right now.”
“It’s financially unfeasible for dispensaries to stay in business and sustain the cost of growing for three people,” Bradford continues. “There are about 471 dispensaries [remaining] and some are large-scale and employ 20 to 30 people each. Local businesses are getting shut down.”