Mar 16, 2011 7:03 PM by Irina Cates (KPAX News)
MISSOULA - Missoula County has the potential to see about twice as many medical marijuana shops than pharmacies.
The Missoula Business Licensing Department says it has records for 73 medical marijuana dispensaries either in business or waiting for a business license in the Missoula County area and most of the dispensaries are in the Missoula city limits.
The Montana Pharmacy Board say it can't track how many pharmacies a county has, but it says in the City of Missoula, records show there are 35 pharmacies, less than half of the medical marijuana facilities we could see in Missoula County.
"The Medical Marijuana Act is silent really as to how those types of facilities are to be run or regulated. So, right now it's kind of a free-for-all," Deputy Missoula County Attorney Andrew Paul said.
Currently pretty much the only way a facility can be regulated is through a raid, when there's a suspicion of a crime.
"We would have to apply for a search warrant, and a judge would have to determine that there was probable cause that a crime had been committed or was being committed, and then that search warrant would be executed," Paul said.
The other concern with medical marijuana is the money and where all of it is going.
"There are no regulations, it makes it such that people who run dispensaries can accept cash payments. They don't necessarily have to keep tight accounts, so there's no telling how much they are taking in. So we don't know how much they should be paying in taxes or where it's going after it comes into the dispensary," Paul told us.
He also says he's heard some high school students say that marijuana is easier for them to get than alcohol.
Paul says one of his concerns is patients buying medical marijuana and then selling it, and he says this happens pretty often.
"So called patients are going in. They're buying so called medical marijuana and then they're selling it to high school students and college students. Then they go back to the dispensary, buy another once and go out and are just selling it on the street. So what they're calling medicine is really just a drug to get high and to make money off of," Paul added.
The Montana Medical Marijuana Act says a patient can only have one caregiver, but there's no way to know if a patient goes to more than one caregiver to get the drug. Paul says he hopes to see some regulation from the legislature, like making caregivers keep accounts and be open for inspection- so the medical marijuana dispensaries would run kind of like a pharmacy.