Medical marijuana bill tabled by panel

January 30, 2007

Associated Press, Billings Gazette

 HELENA - A plan to expand the state's 2004 medical marijuana law was shelved in committee Tuesday.

Supporters of the provision wanted to let patients grow more plants and possess more marijuana. Voters passed the medical marijuana initiative two years ago after the Legislature initially rejected it.

Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee led an effort to table the bill, which was sponsored by Rep. Ron Erickson, D-Missoula. They argued that the current law has built-in protections to make sure marijuana is not abused.

Erickson argued a day earlier that users of medical marijuana need to be allowed to possess more than one ounce to make sure they always have the drug available.

Other changes Erickson proposed include expanding the law to allow a sick person to designate a "transporter" to legally pick up marijuana for them, and allowing nurse practitioners and physician assistants to prescribe medical marijuana.

A patient must be diagnosed by a physician as having a "debilitating medical condition," such as cancer, glaucoma, AIDS, severe muscle spasms or chronic pain, to get medical marijuana.

Erickson's bill is House Bill 311.

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