Montana Supreme Court upholds a terrible law, but voters have final word

The Montana Supreme Court issued a ruling last week in the Montana Cannabis Industry Association's lawsuit against the State of Montana. The Supreme Court reversed a lower court's injunction against provisions of the state's medical marijuana law, known as SB423, and ordered it to reconsider its decision using a different standard of review than previously applied. It is not clear based on the language in the Supreme Court's decision whether or not the injunction is currently in effect, leaving hundreds of medical marijuana providers to wonder if they are currently in compliance with state law.

While many will be quick to blame the Montana Supreme Court for what they may consider a bad decision, the real fault lies with the state legislature for passing an unworkable medical marijuana law. The law is fraught with impossible standards and barriers to participation, many of which were blocked because of the injunction. With those legal protections removed, it will finally be clear the extent to which SB423 was intended to end medical marijuana in Montana. This law isn't regulation; it was never intended to be regulation. It was repeal in disguise and now voters can see it for what it is, when they vote in a referendum in November.

Despite this setback, the MTCIA is proud that it has been able to help protect thousands of patients from the worst effects of SB423 since it went into effect 15 months ago. And regardless of this ruling, the real solution lies ahead of us: Just because the Supreme Court says the legislature has a right to pass a bad law, that doesn't mean the voters shouldn’t demand the legislature overturn it and pass something workable. The overwhelming majority of voters who supported the original medical marijuana law in 2004 have a chance to overturn this awful law and demand that the legislature do its job. Voters in Montana can overturn the current bad law by voting “No” on IR-124 on November 6. In the mean time, our legal battle will continue. Our state representatives should stop trying to undo what the voters want. Instead, the legislature should develop a workable and rational system that serves both patients and their communities.

Chris Lindsey is the President of the Montana Cannabis Industry Association.