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Montana Medical Marijuana Program Continues To Shrink


Montana medical marijuanaMedical Marijuana In Montana Sees Reduced Enrollment

Montana once had a very good medical marijuana program. My best friend moved to Montana in around 2008, and when he first arrived there, the available marijuana left a lot to be desired. It looked like mid-grade outdoor marijuana, and cost 350-400 per ounce. My best friend was a medical marijuana patient in Oregon, so needless to say, the new scenario he was in was very harsh to him. Every time he would come back to Oregon to visit, he would get as much Oregon marijuana as he could get his hands on, and mumble about how bad things are in Montana in regards to marijuana quality and availability.

My best friend served a 15 month tour in Iraq, and I can say first hand that he needs his medical marijuana for various ailments and conditions he acquired while serving our country. These are ailments and conditions that he had been taking quite a bit of pharmaceuticals for, which were having all kinds of side effects on his body. When he smoked medical marijuana, it alleviated his ailments and conditions better than any other medication.

Montana has had a medical marijuana program for years, but there weren’t that many doctor’s that were willing to prescribe it. As a result of low access to the program, not that many people were enrolled in it, such as my best friend. That all changed when the Montana Caregivers Network started to pump out medical marijuana clinic across the state at the end of the last decade. Montana’s medical marijuana program took off like a rocket, and people like my best friend were finally able to legally medicate in Montana. Things got even better when dispensaries, clubs, and collectives started to pop up across the state. Medical marijuana quality increased dramatically, as did access to it.

Pretty soon, my same friend that was loading up on Oregon marijuana to take to Montana was bringing over marijuana from Montana to show me. It was about 200 per ounce, and was of the same quality as what I had been smoking on at the time. The transformation was mind blowing to be honest. In such a little amount of time Montana went from a wasteland for marijuana to a great place to find it. That all changed when the 2011 Legislature passed Senate Bill 423, which has crippled the program. Since Senate Bill 423 took effect in July 2011, the number of Montana medical marijuana patients has been cut in half, and the number of medical marijuana caregivers has been reduced by over 90%.

“Senate Bill 423 certainly had an impact,” said Roy Kemp, the chief medical marijuana regulator in the state Department of Public Health and Human Services. “Federal activities certainly have had an impact. The bill made it very difficult for providers to enter the field, as it were. We’re losing about 51 percent of renewals. That seems to be the trend. If that trend continues, we’ll end up with 12,000-13,000 (cardholders) by May.”

“The federal raids have terrified so many legitimate providers that are otherwise law-abiding providers, who are closing their doors all over the place,” said John Masterson of Missoula, who is the Executive Director of Montana NORML. “It’s important to note that all providers are not created equal. There were a handful with warehouses with an agricultural crop grown indoors with a wholesale business. These folks, whether they are consuming it to address a serious medical condition or to enhance their lives or to relax after a hard day’s work, generally speaking, they’re going to do so whether there’s a state-sanctioned program or not.”

Senate Majority Leader Jeff Essmann (R-Billings) was the sponsor of Montana SB 423. He explains the two major changes that came out of the legislation. “First, he said, the law imposed stricter requirements for people to obtain a doctor’s recommendation for “severe or chronic pain,” which had become by far the most common reason cited by people to obtain medical marijuana cards. The law also tightened medical standards for those physicians who recommended medical marijuana to many patients.”

Last year opponents of Montana SB 423 gathered over 36,000 signatures to place a referendum vote on the fall ballot. At least this way the State of Montana can vote on the issue democratically, instead of the legislature forcing it’s will on the people. The voters approved medical marijuana in Montana. The same process should occur to change it. From what my best friend tells me, things are ‘back to the black market’ in Montana in regards to marijuana quality and access. Last time he was here he picked up a couple of Oregon’s finest ounces…a sign of the times I suppose.


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Johnny Green


  1. Nothing will change until we can insist that our ELECTED FEDERAL OFFICALS  stop the persecution. How can anyone make them stop this wrong sided war when the government officals have the ability to instill fear upon even governors and state legislators ( google Diane Sands Montana legislator) much less those of us who tried to do the right things and help the sick and dying . How can we impress upon our fellow citizens who just happen to work for the government that it is better for society and the nation as a whole to have a realistic cannabis law that is based upon science and social acceptance. THEY nor US are the enemy. We are all citizens and only want to live and work and pay taxes in our communities and provide safe access to other adults that choose to use cannabis in a wellness application. There is nothing wrong with rules and laws, but when laws are based upon the accepted racist tones of the 1930’s and used to control and abuse minority segments of the population until 2012 maybe it is time to demand better of our fellow citizens and work together to STOP THE PERSECUTION>

  2. BonnieJeanneTonks on

    As a chronic pain patient, I was relieved to get my card last year. I’ve been trying to line up a second doctor (because of Jeff Essmann’s BS I need another one to sign) but I cannot afford to travel to get their okay. I am a medicaid patient and I can’t afford to pay $150+ on top of travel and lodging to get to see someone.

    The war on drugs is a war on health and compassion. Time to end the madness. Spread the truth far & wide so we stop hurting the least of us.

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