Jun 6, 2010 1:08 PM by Kay Rossi
GREAT FALLS - Since the passage of the state's Medical Marijuana law in 2004, the number of card holders increases every year by the thousands leading some to believe regulation of the law is simply not strict enough.
Cheryl Loeffler is one of the thousands of card carrying medical marijuana patients. She said a disease called Scleroderma swells her feet and hands and makes it almost unbearable to walk.
About the cannabis, Loeffler said, "It works. It gets me out of bed in the morning. I can walk."
But the rapidly increasing number of card holders raises some concerns.
Great Falls City Attorney Jim Santoro said, "2005 was the first year the Department of Public Health, in Helena Montana, our state agency, issued the first cards. 180 cards were issued in 2005. As of April 2010 there are over 12,000 card holders."
Santoro compared that number to the 1,800 cards issued in Nevada, in the last decade. He also said 85% of card holders in Montana site diseases associated with chronic pain as the reason they need cards.
People with AIDS, glaucoma and cancer make up a combined 3%. Those with multiple sclerosis make up less than .2%. Another red flag, he said, is the age of cardholders. He said the majority are between the ages of 21 and 30.
Loeffler said, "Personally I think more people should just be more open to it."
She said every cardholder she knows is legitimately sick, despite their age.
And while some say the process of getting a card is too lax, Loeffler said it took her two months to get approved.
Loeffler said, "Doctors are doing what they should be doing. I mean, these doctors have to see medical records or they're not going to OK you."
Santoro said after the recent passage of a city ban in Great Falls, there will be zero tolerance for medical marijuana businesses not abiding by the law.
He also said the state legislature will need to look at repealing or tightening up current regulations.
The town of Cascade is looking to shut down medical marijuana businesses as well through a six month moratorium.
Loeffler said if that happens, she doesn't know what her next step will be but she's willing to fight for any alternative.
Great Falls recently passed a city-wide ban of the sale of medical marijuana.
Cascade Town Council members will take a final vote on a medical marijuana moratorium on June 9th.