By Niki Zupanic Public Policy Director
The Montana State Supreme Court heard oral arguments yesterday in Montana Cannabis Industry Association v. State, the case challenging a bill passed by the 2011 Legislature to severely restrict Montanans' access to medical marijuana. That bill, SB 423, repealed the voter-approved Montana Medical Marijuana Act and replaced it with an ill-conceived, unworkable system, whereby patients would find it difficult, if not impossible to get the medical marijuana that they need. MCIA challenged the new law, and a few of of its most most onerous provisions were ruled unconstitutional by the trial court.
Preemption, commandeering, strict scrutiny, rational basis: the justices had a lot of technical legal questions for the attorneys, but the heart of the matter was caught in the exchanges that focused on the practical effects of the new law. Jim Goetz, the attorney for MCIA raised some provocative points that highlighted just how far the new law went in trying to eliminate the existence of medical marijuana providers. If providers could not be compensated for their services, how likely was it that a patient would be able to procure the medicine she needed? How could a provider navigate the ins and outs of the new statute and ensure that he was in compliance? And if the new law just isn't workable, than doesn't that arbitrarily cut off access to a needed medical treatment, in violation of our state constitution?
It likely will be months before the Court rules on this case, and the justices' questions don't really give us a clear picture of how they may rule. But, regardless of how the Court eventually rules, the voters will have a chance to vote down the new law on the November ballot. IR-124 puts the new law before the voters. A "no" vote would repeal the new scheme and restore the original act that voters approved back in 2004.
Break out your own veto brand and vote no!