Judge Rules to Re-Open Montana Marijuana Dispensaries Immediately

Article by Matt Voltz, Associated Press via The State

A judge on Wednesday cleared the way for Montana’s medical marijuana dispensaries to re-open after a three-month hiatus by ruling that a drafting error in a voter-approved ballot initiative should not delay the measure’s implementation.

District Judge James Reynolds of Helena ruled the error that pushed back the effective date of a key portion of the initiative until July 1 should not keep very ill patients from accessing the drug immediately.

“The folks that are maybe the most in need are the least able to provide, to grow their own,” Reynolds said in making his ruling. “I think speed is more important than niceties.”

The initiative approved by voters last month struck down a law passed by the Montana Legislature in 2011 that limited medical marijuana providers to three patients each. The three-patient limit took effect Aug. 31 after a five-year court battle, forcing the closure of medical marijuana dispensaries across the state and leaving thousands of registered users without providers.

The authors of the ballot measure, the Montana Cannabis Industry Association, had intended for the three-patient limit to be struck down immediately upon passage of the initiative.

But a last-minute flurry of activity between initiative sponsors and state officials resulted in two new sections being added to the measure, changing the numbering of the sections in the initiative, according to the group’s lobbyist, Kate Cholewa. The part of the initiative that laid out the effective dates of the various sections of the measure was not updated to reflect the final changes, she said.

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