Medical marijuana issue heats up in MT Legislature

The Montana Medical Marijuana Act is once again coming under fire in the state legislature. More than 150 people crowded into the Capitol in Helena on Friday as the Senate Judiciary committee addressed a bill which would repeal the Medical Marijuana Act.

The bill is sponsored by MT State Representative Mike Milburn (R-Cascade), who says there is no way to rein in the medical marijuana industry. Milburn says the rapid increase in the number of medical marijuana cards is out of control. He says it is a strain on law enforcement and it is getting into the hands of children.

Milburn’s bill has already passed the House in a 63-37 vote. Now the bill is before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Committee Chairman Terry Murphy (R-Cardwell) has asked a subcommittee to draft a bill which would regulate the medical marijuana industry, instead of repealing the Act altogether. Murphy says he doesn’t believe there are enough votes in the Senate to pass a repeal bill, so he wants to be ready with an alternative.

Representative Diane Sands (D-Missoula) was carrying a bill – which a bipartisan committee drafted in the interim – to set up a regulatory framework for medical marijuana. Her bill never got out of the House Human Services committee.

Jeff Swenson, a medical marijuana supporter, opposes the measure, and said, “Medical marijuana helps alleviate this. My muscle’s spasms are under control. I used to tie them up at night with a vacuum cord so I could get sleep. I once sent myself to the hospital for hitting my legs because they would make me so angry when they would flop all over the place. Medical marijuana prevents them from doing that.”

Sarah Edmunds, a Missoula high school student, spoke in favor of repealing the act, telling lawmakers, “With a green card it is a whole lot easier to make the wrong decision. I am standing up here and I begging you to pass this bill. Because I have lost many friends over this and I would like to get my friends back and I would like my friends to have their lives back.”

Senate Judiciary Chairman Terry Murphy says he is considering appointing a subcommittee to draft a reform bill.

He feels the Senate won’t have enough votes to pass the repeal bill.

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