Supporters of medical marijuana want changes to the law

January 28, 2007

Matt Gouras, Associated Press, Great Falls Tribune (MT)

The state’s 2004 medical marijuana law needs to be changed to let patients grow more plants and posses more marijuana, a key supporter says.

The current law was approved by voters and allows those registered with the state to have one ounce of marijuana at a time, but that should be increased to 12 ounces, said Rep. Ron Erickson, D-Missoula.

 He also told a House committee on Monday that the law needs to be changed to allow those registered with the state to have six “mature” marijuana plants, rather than just six plants. More young plants are needed to replace old ones that die, he argued.

Erickson’s measure was supported by those behind the 2004 initiative that voters approved with 62 percent of the vote.

Paul Befumo said the six-plant, one-ounce limit has turned out to be an impractical combination for keeping a sick person stocked with enough marijuana.

“It’s like being told you can have six tomato plants, but only one tomato at any given time,” he said.

One opponent showed up, an anti-drug activist from New York, to say medicinal marijuana is supported by special interests who hope to eventually legalize the drug for everyone.

“Their agenda is simple — legalizing marijuana and using the medicalization of it to get to the end game,” said Steve Steiner. “Is it really a medicine?”

The state says about 280 people have registered for the program.

Other changes proposed by Erickson 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.

Currently, a patient must be being diagnosed by a physician as having a “debilitating medical condition,” such as cancer, glaucoma, AIDS, severe muscle spasms or chronic pain.

Erickson carried a bill in the 2003 Legislature to legalize medical marijuana, but it was killed. Supporters then successfully took the issue to the voters the following year.

The House Judiciary Committee did not take immediate action on the bill.

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Erickson’s bill is House Bill 311.



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