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Montana Law Could Leave 12,000 Patients Without Medical Marijuana

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Craig Boudreau Vice Reporter

A new law in Montana could leave thousands of medical marijuana patients without legal access to their medicine.

Senate Bill 423, which went into effect Aug. 31, says “providers” — dispensaries — can only provide marijuana for three patients per store, The Cannabist reported Wednesday.

“Everybody’s shutting down,” government relations director for the Montana Cannabis Industry Association, Kate Cholewa told The Cannabist. “It’s over.”

The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services says there are roughly 13,000 medical marijuana patients in the state, and medical marijuana advocates say this new law could effectively keep 12,000 of them from legally obtaining their medicine.

Another restriction included “automatically review” for any doctor who recommends pot to 25 or more patients.

Enforcement will fall to the sheriffs departments, but, as Sheriff Brian Gootkin of Gallatin County told The Cannabist, there aren’t enough officers to visit every store to gauge compliance.

In Silver Bow County, which has 782 patients, 728 of them will be left with no option, as the county’s 18 providers can only serve 54 people, the Montana Standard reports.

“There’s no guidance from the state on what patients should do during this time,” Chris Lindsey, senior legislative counsel for the Marijuana Policy Project, told the Montana Standard.

And of the 488 registered providers in the state, 304 sell to more than three patients, notes The Cannabist.

Appearing on the November ballot is a measure titled I-182, which seeks to overturn the new law. The ballot measure, among other things, would undo the three patient-per-provider law, as well as expand coverage to include those with chronic pain, and those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

And yet, even if passed, implementation of I-182 could be delayed by several months, since it won’t go into effect until June 30, 2017.

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