Montana: Law makes medical marijuana difficult for patients to obtain

Medical marijuana trial continues in Helena

Montana: Law makers discuss how new law makes medical marijuana difficult for patients to obtain by Melissa Anderson
Helena, Montana– In the second day of a medical marijuana lawsuit, witnesses in a Helena courtroom attempted to unravel the ramifications of Montana’s recently passed legislation changing the industry.

While Senate Bill 423 was an attempt to get a handle on potential abusers of the medication, some doctors say it may have gone too far for those who really need it.

As of July 1st, Dr. John Stowers of Comfortable Living in Great Falls says he is closing his private practice for good, as he doesn’t want to face reviews by the Montana Board of Medical Examiners just for recommending medical marijuana to more than 25 patients.

Stowers, an emergency physician, said, “I can think of no other area of medicine where an arbitrary number of 25 will require me to then be investigated by the Medical Board.”

In the past year and a half, Stowers has recommended medical marijuana to between 800 and 1,000 patients, many of them suffering from chronic pain. Stowers noted, “Pain is what drives you, probably the majority of people, to seek medical care.”

An estimated 21,000 people with medical marijuana cards in Montana claim they have chronic pain, and it’s that pain that allowed them to seek marijuana as a medicinal treatment.

But industry leaders say new rules for Montana’s medical marijuana is cramping the doctors who recommend the treatment, as well as the providers who grow and maintain the crops.

The state’s chief regulator of medical marijuana, Roy Kemp of the MT Department of Health & Human Services, says it’s been difficult trying to process the legislated changes.

Kemp testified, “This bill required modifications to databases, it required modifications to applications. It basically required a major shift of everything that we were doing and the timeline was very short.”

In the meantime, doctors who believe in marijuana as a medicine have essentially already closed their doors.

The state began its arguments on Tuesday afternoon.