In a resounding victory for the Montana marijuana program, a judge ruled on Wednesday that dispensaries can open immediately.
District Judge James Reynolds of Helena ruled the error that a drafting error in a voter-approved initiative should not delay implementation of the law.
“The folks that are maybe the most in need are the least able to provide, to grow their own,” Reynolds ruled. “I think speed is more important than niceties.”
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The initiative, approved by voters in November, reversed a law passed by the Montana Legislature that limited medical marijuana providers to three patients each. The onerous limit took effect Aug. 31 after a five-year court battle, forcing dispensaries across the state to shut down and leaving thousands of registered patients left out in the cold.
The Montana Cannabis Industry Association, authors of the initiative, intended for the three-patient limit to be ruled illegal immediately.
But, according to the Associated Press, “a last-minute flurry of activity between initiative sponsors and state officials resulted in two new sections being added to the measure, changing the numbering of the sections in the initiative.” The language that laid out the effective dates of the various sections of the measure was not updated to reflect the final changes.
The Montana Cannabis Industry Association took their case to Reynolds, who had twice ruled to block the three-patient limit. Reynolds said the effective date issue was a clerical error.
The judge also noted that federal and state laws regarding marijuana remain in conflict. “We’re in a morass here,” he said. “Folks are speaking with their votes.”
Kate Cholewa, lobbyist for the Montana Cannabis Industry Association, was pleased with the ruling. “The people who work providing marijuana in Montana were, let’s face it, they were jerked around quite a bit,” she said. “They are somewhat used to it and very good at coming back.”
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