Trouble in Montana

February 13, 2011 | Don Duncan
Medical cannabis patients and advocates all over the country should be paying attention to what is happening in Montana right now. The House of Representatives voted to repeal the state’s medical cannabis law on Thursday. If the Senate follows suit, Montana’s seven year old voter initiative could be gone on July 1st. The push to roll back safe access in the state comes amid hand-wringing over familiar topics – lenient doctors and a growing number of dispensaries. While patients and advocates rally to oppose the measure, the rest of the country should learn a lesson about how fragile support for medical cannabis can be.



Passing state medical cannabis laws is the first step in a long and expensive process. Advocates must follow up with legislation and rules to fully implement the laws before our increasingly-sophisticated opponents use anecdotes of abuse, real and imagined, to erode support. Research conducted by Americans for Safe Access beginning in 2005 clearly shows that sensible regulations reduce crime and complaints around medical cannabis facilities. The implication is clear – regulations are our best strategy for diffusing opposition.

The repeal of Montana’s medical cannabis initiative is not certain. Americans for Safe Access is talking with activists on the ground about solutions – a proactive media campaign, self-regulation, and old-fashioned grassroots opposition. Meanwhile, lawmakers in Helena are vetting numerous “fix it” bills to address ambivalence about the state’s rapidly expanding program. Patients there hope that cooler heads prevail, and the legislature opts for a middle ground.
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