A judge in Montana has ruled that its medical marijuana dispensaries can resume operations.
On Election Day, Montana residents approved measure I-182, which legalized medical marijuana dispensaries…again. District Judge James Reynolds ruled that an administrative error should not delay the needs of Montana voters.
“The folks that are maybe the most in need are the least able to provide, to grow their own,” Reynolds said in making his ruling. “I think speed is more important than niceties.”
Montana legalized medical marijuana in 2004. But in August, after years of legal battles between state authorities and dispensary operators, the Montana Supreme Court ruled that all dispensaries had to close.
After the shutdown, medical marijuana was only available through designated caregivers. However, each caregiver was only permitted to provide marijuana to three patients.
The three-patient rule was revoked when residents passed I-182 a few weeks ago. Late additions to I-182 by lawmakers and marijuana advocates created an unintended consequence. Dispensaries were prevented from re-opening until July 1, 2017.
The Montana Cannabis Association authored I-182 and was instrumental in the get-out-the-vote effort. “The people who work providing marijuana in Montana were, let’s face it, they were jerked around quite a bit,” the group’s lobbyist, Kate Cholewa said. “They are somewhat used to it and very good at coming back.”
The Marijuana Company, a dispensary that serves the city of Helena, felt his shop would not have survived if Judge Reynolds did not rule in favor of the dispensaries. “It’s been brutal,” Thomas said. “We were forced out of business, and we were trying to hang on until we could re-open. If we had to wait until June, we probably would have had to throw in the towel.”
Although dispensaries will be able to re-open, patients may still be without their medication for some time. Because of the dispensary closures, there is a shortage of medical-grade medicine available.