Montana’s Message

Departments - From the Editor

April 1, 2016

By the time you read this, the Montana Supreme Court likely will have either approved or rejected a petition-for- rehearing request filed March 11 by advocates of the state’s medical marijuana program. The petition asked the Supreme Court to delay a February ruling that would drastically change the state’s MMJ program, putting hundreds of caregivers at risk of prosecution and nearly 13,000 patients “scrambling to find alternative sources for marijuana,” according to an article on Montana’s KPAX.com.

The February ruling allows each provider to only sell to two patients, or three if the provider is also a patient. “At the time of the ruling, about 84 percent of the patients in the state relied on a provider, with the average provider serving 14 patients. This change represents an enormous setback for seriously ill patients in the state,” reports the Marijuana Policy Project on its website (MPP.org).

A spokesperson from the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, which runs the MMJ program, issued a statement to the Billings Gazette, saying, “DPHHS is concerned for the thousands of patients with conditions like cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy who have been prescribed medical marijuana by a licensed physician and who could find themselves suddenly without an effective treatment.”

Montana law mandates that “cultivation of up to 1 lb. or 30 plants of marijuana is a felony punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment and/or a fine up to $50,000. Cultivation of more than 1 pound or 30 plants is a felony punishable by a minimum of 2 years to a maximum of life imprisonment and a fine up to $50,000,” according to NORML.org.

Montana’s situation serves as a staunch reminder that no legalization laws are guaranteed. Likewise, as MPP Executive Director Rob Kampia comments in the article “Kampia’s War” (page 42), despite current progress, widespread legalization is, by no means, inevitable.

This year is on track to be “the most pivotal year in the history of marijuana reform,” as Kampia puts it, with legalization measures up for vote in a record number of states. And, as we see in the ground-breaking “State of the Industry Report” in this issue, cultivators are poised for significant growth and expansion. As the fight to end of prohibition continues to win battles big and small, that growth will only… well, grow.

But as we are seeing in Montana, it’s a constant and often-frustrating battle.

So as growers prepare to launch and/or expand their operations, it’s wise to keep this instability in mind. Buddy Boy Farm’s Steve Walser wisely suggests (in the Guest Interview, page 52) that you plan, in detail, for things you can know, and avoid significant debt in an unknown market.

We are all bracing for more states to legalize medical and recreational cannabis, and optimism abounds, as it should. But for business practices, a bit of cautious optimism can go a long way.