Story by Jonathon Ambarian – MTN News
HELENA – The Montana House has endorsed a major reform to Montana’s medical marijuana system.
On Monday, House members voted 68-32 in favor of Senate Bill 265, sponsored by Sen. Tom Jacobson, a Democrat from Great Falls.
The bill would make a number of changes to medical marijuana in the state. The biggest is “untethering” patients from providers, meaning patients who do not grow their own marijuana will no longer have to choose a single provider to purchase marijuana from. Instead, they will be limited to purchasing five ounces of usable marijuana per month, and no more than one ounce per day.
SB 265 initially raised a tax on marijuana providers from 2 percent to 4 percent. The House Taxation Committee amended the bill to make that increase temporary, beginning in October 2019 and ending in September 2021.
Democratic Rep. Zach Brown of Bozeman said he has heard complaints that Montana’s medical marijuana laws aren’t clear enough, and that there hasn’t been enough enforcement. He said SB 265 will give the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services the tools it needs to better manage the medical marijuana system.
“Ultimately, we see medical marijuana as medicine,” he said. “And so the state has an obligation to provide a regulatory framework that provides certainty for cancer patients and other types of patients, so that they know that their medicine is safe and effective, and they know where it came from.”
Some opponents said they were concerned about a provision in SB 265 that would let doctors grant some patients’ medical marijuana certifications using telemedicine — a remote exam over video or phone. Opponents said that could create too many loopholes in the rules.
An attempt to amend that section out of the bill failed. Supporters of the provision said it would be beneficial for patients in rural Montana.
SB 265 must now pass a final vote in the House on Tuesday in order to keep moving forward.