Medical Marijuana

Jul 20, 2011 9:08 AM by Amanda Venegas (KTVQ Billings)

Medical marijuana caregiver sues city of Billings

BILLINGS- A medical marijuana storefront owner files a lawsuit on his behalf and others against the city of Billings. The suit challenges the city's emergency ordinance banning storefronts that sell medical cannabis.

Near the end of June, a District Court judge ruled on the validity of Senate Bill 423, the state's new medical marijuana act. One of the bill's provisions gives local governments the authority to regulate the industry.

And with that in mind, the Billings City Council voted July fifth to ban all medical marijuana storefronts within the city. That emergency ordinance and whether or not an "emergency existed" at all, is now being challenged in court.

In court documents, plaintiff William Reid and three others named as John Doe, allege the city failed to prove there was an emergency when it made its decision. The lawsuit also says the city's 16 storefronts failed to amount to an emergency and they allege their due process rights were violated.

The plaintiffs say the city's actions also deny them a fundamental right to engage in business activity, and that their business will be negatively affected by the new ordinance. The case is now before Billings District Judge Gregory Todd.

The plaintiff's attorney Chris Lindsey of Missoula, he says his clients have two hopes; in the short term to suspend law enforcement activity when it comes to regulating medical marijuana businesses under the new law and in the long term to stop and eliminate the city's emergency ordinance altogether.

Licenses were first issued to medical marijuana businesses in Billings in April 2009. At one time, as many as 89 businesses were licensed by the city. In May 2010 , the city council passed a moratorium halting any new medical marijuana businesses from opening. Since then the number of storefronts has decreased to 16.

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