Marijuana advocates moving on after MT Supreme Court reverses injunction on SB 423

Proponents of medical marijuana reform passed by the state legislature are regrouping. This after the Montana Supreme Court reversed a lower court injunction blocking part of the reform this week. The reform bill still will go before voters this November.

The 2011 medical marijuana reform bill was passed by state Legislators as Senate Bill 423. It dramatically restricted use of the substance from the rules in the medical marijuana initiative passed by voters in 2004. Lawmakers were seeking to reign-in the number of people registering to use marijuana and shut down the burgeoning industry that accompanied it.

But, the Montana Cannabis Industry Association was quick to file suit against the law and District Judge Jim Reynolds last year blocked several parts of it from taking effect, saying it violated patients’ and providers’ constitutional rights to privacy and to pursue employment and health.

The Supreme Court reversed Reynolds injunctions this week. Billings Republican State Senator Jeff Essman Sponsored the reform bill in the legislature. He’s glad to see Judge Reynolds decisions struck down.

“Which, basically, as the Supreme Court found would have elevated access to medical marijuana to constitutional status,” Essman said.

The Supreme court does say an individual has a fundamental right to obtain and reject medical treatment. But, they also say, this right does not extend to give a patient a fundamental right to use any drug, regardless of its legality. Marijuana is still illegal federally.

Former marijuana lobbyist Tom Daubert just received five years probation for his role in a medical marijuana growing operation. He still describes the marijuana reform bill as repeal in disguise. He largely dismisses the high court’s ruling.

 “The Supreme Court didn’t judge the merits of the current law except regards constitutionality. They didn’t say it was a good law,” Daubert said.

Enough signatures were gathered to put the marijuana reform bill up to a public vote in November as IR-124. Daubert says more or less what the Supreme Court has done is put the issue squarely back in the laps of voters.

“Which I think is where it belongs, it was voters who made a compassionate decision, a smart decision 8 years ago,” Daubert said.

Voters will have the option to reject the law, but State Senator Jeff Essman predicts they won’t.

“We took important first steps to get a situation that was widely regarded as out of control under control,” he said.

However the vote for IR-124 comes out, Essman predicts the legislature will be taking up the issue again next session.

Meanwhile, Supreme Court Justices sent the case back to District Judge Reynolds with orders to review it under a less-strict standard.

Sally Mauk talks with filmmaker Rebecca Richman Cohen about Montana’s medical marijuana debate..

Rebecca Richman Cohen

Boston-based filmmaker Rebecca Richman Cohen’s latest documentary follows the debate last year in the Montana legislature over whether to reform or repeal Montana’s medical marijuana law, passed by voters in 2004. “Code of the West” looks at the enormous growth in the medical marijuana industry, and the backlash against it. In this feature interview, Cohen talks with News Director Sally Mauk about why she wanted to do the film – and what she hopes audiences take away from it….