Medical marijuana advocates: fight in Montana only the beginning
In Montana, medical marijuana advocates say the passage of legislation which would all but outlaw medical marijuana in the state is merely the beginning of the battle.
Medical marijuana advocates are launching a three-pronged strategy — veto, sue and suspend — to stop the recently passed bill that would impose far greater restrictions on the industry and make it harder for people to qualify for medical pot use.
First, they are trying to convince Gov. Brian Schweitzer to change his mind and veto Senate Bill 423, by Sen. Jeff Essmann, R-Billings. Schweitzer said Friday he wouldn’t veto the bill, but instead would hold his nose and let it become law without his signature. It has not become law yet.
The groups also may file lawsuits to challenge the future law, which would put medical marijuana growers and caregivers out of business by July 1.
Finally, they want to stop the law in its tracks by mounting a referendum to suspend it before it takes effect and let voters decide its fate on the November 2012 ballot.
Jim Gingery, executive director of the Montana Medical Growers Association, told the Colorado Independent that his organization and others are not about to give up. He said he is still hopeful that Schweitzer will veto the bill, if only to block a resurgent black market for marijuana.
Schweitzer, though, says vetoing the bill would be pointless as the Legislature has more than enough votes to override any veto.
Gingery acknowledges that the most likely scenario will be for the reforms to become law and for the issue to go back to voters, who approved legalizing medical marijuana by a nearly two-thirds majority. He says he expects even greater support if voters are asked to weigh in again.
That process, however, could leave Montana in a state of near-prohibition from July of this year until November 2012, when a new governor will also be selected.
Supporters say, though, that if there is no veto they will work to get the new law suspended until voters can weigh in.