The Billings Outpost

SB 423: bad idea

There seems to be much confusion over Senate Bill 423. Senate Bill 423 is Montana’s Marijuana Act, put into place by the 2011 Legislature. SB423 is a bill that repealed and replaced voter Initiative 148, which was approved by 62% of Montana Voters in 2004.

SB 423 is not medical marijuana regulation, as supporters of this bill would like you to believe. SB 423 makes no mention of medical marijuana; the program is now called the Montana Marijuana Program. Participants in this program are no longer called patients, but “registered card holders.”

SB 423 has no state oversight, meaning that production and distribution of marijuana for medical purposes is not regulated or overseen by any state department, agency or regulatory committee. The Department of Health and Human Services simply issues cards and sets administrative rules and fees. It does not oversee any regulatory aspect of the program. In fact, SB 423 even bans labs and testing facilities, allowing no testing or any type of quality control.

After the governor vetoed a full repeal bill, SB 423 was thrown together in the last few weeks of the legislative session. The goal, to come as close to eliminating the program as the Legislature could get. SB 423 punishes and penalizes those who try to participate.

SB 423 limits providers, formerly called caregivers, to two patients and does not allow them to be compensated in any way. They must grow and give away their product for free. SB423 actually creates a widely distributed system of production (lots of small growers) and eliminates all professional organizations that could actually be subject to strict regulations. Basically this is a “hippy system” of unregulated masses growing their own, as opposed to any kind of controlled regulatory system.

SB 423 allows for warrantless searches of any place marijuana is grown, including private residences. This is a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Article II, Section 11, of the Montana Constitution. It also bans all forms of advertising, a clear violation of the freedom of speech.

It mandates all participants in the program be disclosed to law enforcement. Cardholders who are pulled over by law enforcement can be forced to submit a blood sample, simply because they participate in the program.

SB423 interferes with the Doctor / Patient relationship by forcing doctors to limit their recommendations for medical marijuana to 25 patients per year, or face a costly investigation by the medical board of examiners.

SB 423 will leave well over 5,400 current cardholders without a provider. If these cardholders cannot grow their own medicine, (and many people cannot grow for themselves for numerous reasons), they will no longer be able to participate in the program and forced to give up their card.

Supporters of SB423 claim this law is more in line with the voter’s original intent in 2004. The voters definitely intended for participants to be able to legally obtain medical marijuana. SB 423 doesn’t even allow participants to do that.

Overturning SB 423 in the November election isn’t about going backward. Voting against SB 423 sends a clear message to our Legislature that Montanans want to move forward toward reasonable, workable regulation that can benefit the people the voters intended to help in 2004.

Elizabeth Pincolini

Billings

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