The number of registered medical marijuana cardholders in Montana has increased for the first time since state lawmakers passed legislation reforming the legal use of the substance last year. Legal enrolled patients rose to 8,844 in July.
But Quality Assurance Division Deputy Administrator in the State Department of Public Health and Human Services Roy Kemp says it’s only a modest uptick of 163 patients from June.
“The numbers of new patients coming on has been concealed by the avalanche of people leaving. There have been new patients that have come on every month of the last year as well as people who have renewed. otherwise we would not be at 8,000-plus individuals,” Kemp said.
The number of registered cardholders reached its peak in May of last year—coming in at more than 30-thousand people enrolled before reform went into effect.
Speaker of the House, Cascade Republican Representative Mike Milburn originally wanted full repeal of Montana’s medical marijuana law, although he did eventually vote for the reform bill now in place. Milburn thinks the current figure of over 8-thousand cardholders is still too high.
“These aren’t medical marijuana users. These are recreational users. Very very few people in Montana had expressed a desire or a need or expressed results from Marijuana medically,” Milburn said.
Voters will decide whether they want to keep the reform bill passed by the legislature this November. Medical marijuana advocate Bob Brigham acts as spokesman for a group working to overturn the reform.
Brigham believes most of the more than 20-thousand people no longer on the registry have now turned to the black market.
“For the vast majority of people, you won’t be able to legally get marijuana. There’s no way to buy a plant, there’s no way to buy seeds to grow your own. You can’t buy marijuana anywhere. And so, the system’s completely crumbled and it has bottomed out,” Brigham said.
The state’s medical marijuana reform law goes before voters this November as IR-124. A vote for the measure keeps the reform in place. Voting against IR-124 reverts Montana to old marijuana provisions passed by voters in 2004.
Marijuana is still listed as an illegal drug at the federal level.