Posted: Sep 12, 2012 7:25 AM by MTN News
Updated: Sep 12, 2012 7:36 AM
HELENA - The Montana Supreme Court's ruling Tuesday, reversing a District Court decision which stopped implementation of certain parts of the Montana Marijuana Act, is sparking widespread reaction.
In the 6 to 1 decision, the high court ruled that District Judge Jim Reynolds applied the law incorrectly when he said the Montana Marijuana Act violates the rights of medical marijuana users.
The issue spurs from the Montana Legislature's crack down on the medical marijuana industry during the 2011 session.
This particular case looked at two parts of the law: the exchange of cash for marijuana and the number of cardholders a provider can serve.
The current law says no cash can be exchanged and a provider can only give marijuana to three cardholders.
Reynolds previously struck down these parts of the law saying they violated the right to employment and the right to seek health.
In the court's decision, Justice Michael Wheat wrote "although individuals have a fundamental right to pursue employment, they do not have a fundamental right to pursue a particular employment or employment free of state regulation."
He also wrote that the right to seek health "does not give a patient a fundamental right to use any drug, regardless of it's legality."
Tuesday's ruling though won't be the last of this debate, the next move will be up to Montana voters in the November general election.
That's when the fate IR 124 will be decided, a measure that gives voters the choice to either keep or reject the new law.
Initiative spokesperson Bob Brigham says the law on the books now violates the voters intent when they decided they wanted medical marijuana in the first place.
"What the Supreme Court really did today was say that the Legislature is within its rights to pass a bad bill," said Brigham.
"The question for the voters this fall, with IR124, is they can vote "yes" to continue to support a bad bill, or they can vote "no" and really reprimand the Legislature."
Billings republican state Senator Jeff Essmann who helped shepherd the new law through the 2011 session, said he was pleased with the high court's ruling.
"Judge Reynolds took an unprecedented legal approach by elevating access to marijuana to a constitutional right," said Essmann.
While acknowledging the final decision on Senate Bill 423 rests with voters November 6th, he's confident they will make the right decision.
"I'm optimistic that Montanans will support a reasonable effort to control and regulate a situation that was out of control and chaotic," Essmann told Q2 News.
Cherrie Brady, co-founder and chair of Safe Community - Safe Kids, fought for changes to the medical marijuana law in the 2011 session.
"I think Montanans are more experienced and wiser than they were when they voted the medical marijuana law in," said Brady. "It's going to be much harder to fool them again."