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Montana Dispensaries Close as Restrictions Take Effect

August 31, 2016
Subject: Economic recession with business posting "CLOSE" sign for Closing down business.
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Medical marijuana dispensaries across Montana have closed their doors as new restrictions took effect Wednesday that limit cannabis providers to three patients apiece, leaving thousands of state-registered cannabis patients without a legal way to buy the drug.

The restrictions begin after five years of unsuccessful court battles to overturn the 2011 state law that rolled back much of a voter-approved law that brought medical marijuana to Montana in 2004. It is one of the most significant rollbacks by the 25 states and Washington, D.C., that allow marijuana to be used for medical purposes.

Medical marijuana advocates estimate that over 12,000 patients are losing legal access to cannabis because their providers did not choose them as one of their three patients. There were 13,190 registered patients at the end of July, says the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services.

Dispensaries posted Facebook messages to their patients that they were closing Tuesday. Some offered their products at discounts, such as Lionheart Caregiving’s $3 marijuana brownie sale, while others gave away inventory before closing down.

“Everybody’s shutting down,” said Kate Cholewa, government relations director for the Montana Cannabis Industry Association. “It’s over.”

The Montana Supreme Court this year upheld three key provisions of the 2011 state law: marijuana providers can sell to no more than three registered users each; doctors who recommend the drug to more than 25 patients in a year must be automatically reviewed; and cannabis advertising is banned.

'We’re hoping they do abide by the law, and if we find out otherwise, we will be visiting with them.'
Brian Gootkin, Gallatin County Sheriff

Enforcement of the new restrictions will be the duty of sheriff’s offices and local police departments. In Gallatin County, which had 130 medical marijuana providers in July, Sheriff Brian Gootkin said he just doesn’t have the manpower to knock on doors to confirm that everyone is following the law.

Instead, the department is sending out letters to providers to make sure they know what is required of them.

“We’re taking the approach that we’re hoping they do abide by the law, and if we find out otherwise, we will be visiting with them,” Gootkin said.

The state health department, which oversees the medical cannabis program, has already spent months contacting patients and providers about the changes, department spokesman Jon Ebelt said.

Only 1,900 patients told the department they kept their provider, found a new one or plan to grow their own, Ebelt said. Another 8,600 registered patients have not told the department what they plan to do, and health officials will issue them 30-day cards to allow them more time to make plans.

Out of the 488 registered providers in the state at the end of July, 304 sold marijuana to more than three patients. Ebelt said 305 providers have told the department that they will continue to provide marijuana to up to three patients.

The rest either did not respond or asked to be removed from the state registry, Ebelt said.

Many patients who are in hospice or have serious illnesses aren’t strong enough to grow their own cannabis, while others don’t have the first clue how to do it, said Katrina Farnum, who runs Garden Mother Herbs in Missoula.

As a result, some of her patients are leaving the state, while others have said they may have to go on opioids or try to buy the drug on the black market, she said. Farnum was one of the providers who gave patients cannabis for free before closing, up to the legal limit of 28 grams.

Patients and providers alike have pinned their hopes on a ballot initiative in the November election that would reverse many of the restrictions put into place. Dispensaries, in their Facebook farewell messages, urged their patients to vote for the measure and vowed to re-open if it passes.

“The patients of the state of Montana are counting on voters to turn out,” said Tayln Lang, a patient from Hamilton who is backing the ballot initiative.

But an error in the initiative could delay its implementation by more than half of a year, even if it passes. Initiative organizers did not update the section of the proposed bill’s effective date in the most recent draft, leaving the bill to read that the three-patient limit would not be lifted until June 30.

Organizers called that a clerical error that can be corrected after the election, but the chief legal counsel for the Montana Legislative Services Division said it was a substantive change that would require legislative approval.

  • Reefsalt

    this is a shame!! Im sure this is a tactic by the big pharmaceutical company lobbiest not wanting medical MJ since. If users go to prescription drugs who stands to make a ton of cash…..as said in the article users will go to opioids, sold by who….yup big corps. Prescription drugs , alcohol ect, kills more people than ever yet its legal ….go figure!

    • AlPennG

      JUST CRIMINAL POLITICIANS AND THEIR BRIBERS AND RICH FRIENDS GETTING RICHER ON THE DEATHS AND SUFFERING OF WE THE PEOPLE!!! #TheyAreTheRealCriminals #RiseUpAndFightBack #ClintonsAreTheRealCriminals #FuckHillgoingJill

    • Billy Wolf

      The 1% just took your freedom away..Did you see it?

      • Reefsalt

        See it everyday here in Canada and in the American News

    • John Davies

      GROW YOUR OWN – SIMPLES 🙂

  • Brett Winston

    I agree. I am a retired due to disability pharmacist. Having struggled with chronic pain due to 6 back surgeries. I have found relief from the long acting, no high, stigmatized, opioids, including a fast acting opiate for break through pain. BTP, a term that means if I indulge in any normal activity, I have BTP. But I am not the sit around and watch tv kind person. They cause mood swings, irritability, constipation or worse, and possibly heart problems. The side effects affect my relationships, my bowels, and yet I’m stuck. So…. I finally tried weed. I was amazed how quickly I got pain relief while experimenting to get the dosage right, strain right, etc. I can function with a better quality of life without being the stereotypical stoner. My state my be one of the last to legalize. I would testify under oath at our no longer confederate flag bearing state legislature if it came to that. I have done a complete 180 on this, and I imagine others are silently doing so. I would move to CO in a heartbeat but I have a 9 and 10 year old, great schools and friends, wife is not licensed in CO to practice. But I’m researching…

    • Billy Wolf

      The high effect goes away A LOT when used regularly, so do the munchies…It repairs you bodies ability to regulate blood sugar..I no longer have Diabetes because of Cannabis..No more shots 3 times a day with Insulin that cost $1400 a month..And that is the REAL reason it is illegal..It make you life better without them getting Paid….

      • Brett Winston

        I feel ya on that. Pceutical comps … Gotta pay the lobbyists, govt servants, oh and need money for research.

      • cinderabi

        GOT THAT RIGHT! The practice of “Medicine” in America is not a service, it is an INDUSTRY… and one of the highest paid and the most vile representation of rampant capitalism in the country!
        Who’s the biggest and baddest cartel ever? BIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIG PHARMA!!!!
        HEALTH CARE? NAAAAAH……… it’s WEALTH CARE in the good old USA!

  • AlPennG

    WE NEED ACCESS TO THE WHOLE PLANT SO WE CAN LIVE A WHOLE LIFE!! JUST BECAUSE THE CRIMINAL POLITICIANS AND THEIR RICH BRIBERS AND FRIENDS THINK IT MORE IMPORTANT TO GET RICHER THAN TO STOP WE THE PEOPLE FROM SUFFERING AND DYING DOES NOT MEAN IT IS RIGHT!! ALL WE WANT IS TO LIVE AND ALL THEY WANT IS TO GET RICHER NO MATTER EVEN IF WE THE PEOPLE HAVE TO DIE FOR THEM TO DO IT!!! #MakeItLegalNow #WeKnowTheRealCriminals #RiseUpAndFightBack #ClintonsAreTheRealCriminals

    • John Davies

      GROW YOUR OWN – SIMPLE 🙂

      • ALAN GANN

        ONE ARM CAN NOT WALK AND LIVE IN WISCONSIN NEED I GO ON!! SORRY BUT THAT IS THE NIGHTMARE SOME LIVE IN!!!! LIVE IN OUR NIGHTMARE THEN TALK!! SORRY FOR THE HARSH WORDS BUT THIS IS MANY PEOPLES REALITY THAT OTHERS THINK IS EASY TO OVERCOME BUT IS NOT FOR MANY!!!! LIKE MYSELF!!!!

  • Robert Gerus

    Restrictions, restrictions, restrictions always some fucking restriction one state get it right and another get it wrong but does that stop the people from not smoking marijuana. NO no no no no, so what the government of that state going to do put all of it’s people in jails for disobeying the stupid laws that governs make to line their own pockets from kickbacks, shame on you all, idiots fucking idiots thinking that everybody is going to stop smoking marijuana, we the people want legal marijuana, stop being such assholes.

    • George Pasenelli

      Aren’t ALL politicians supposed to be “Representatives” of the folks that voted them into office? Seems like the easiest remedy is to HOLD THESE SELF SERVING LIARS “ACCOUNTABLE” FOR THEIR ACTIONS. DONT VOTE FOR ANYONE THAT DOESNT ACT IN YOUR BEST INTERESTS!!! More importantly “The squeaky wheel gets the grease!” still holds true today. GET VOCAL! CALL YOUR CONGRESSMAN…YOUR SENATOR!!! LET THEM KNOW IF YOU OBJECT TO THEIR ACTIONS AND/OR OPINIONS!! We alone CAN affect CHANGE…GET ACTIVE. Don’t wait for someone else to do ANYTHING!

    • John Davies

      GROW YOUR OWN

  • Billy Wolf

    MOntana you just killed your own Children Why not turn Muslim and be done with it..
    Over doses in Portland have dropped almost 40% now that Cannabis if Legal..We made abour 45 Million in Taxes for OUR parks and Schools..We have NEVER had 1 problem at out local dispensary, We get CLEAN quality Medication Safely and reliably..This is NOTHING More that that BIG PHARMA screwing you and you kids for a BUCK ..You know what else Medicarte costs dropped in this state because cannabis does so much for you health you can quit taking all those dangerous drugs the Legal Drug dealers push on US..
    We have seen a real improvement in Life quality ever since..I get MY cannabis in a Prescription bottle with my name on it..
    You are FOOLS to let big Pharma run your lives…

    • Brett Winston

      Dang, that is so cool to hear. You guys are like the biblical promised land to me. And the results will determine the end game. If the right people get paid from all these state cost savings, then it’s a no brainier. Out the enemy. Then out with the enemy.

    • Mares Cribbins

      I live in Orygun…we’ve had a half assed medical program for many years…half assed until we got medical dispensaries a few years back…Early on the FAT CAT ASS HAT Politicians found that the state medical marijuana program had an excess of a couple of million dollars (program had to be completely self supported) they took the money,put it in the general fund (where it disappeared) AND then doubled the fee for a license. NOW that we have recreational pot sales…Instead of the health department running the show, we’ve got our opressive, obsessive Liquor control monopoly running it. They’re falling all over themselves with the new found millions…25 Million,just since January…You can almost hear them rubbing their hands together, in anticipation of mucho bucks, pouring in. The new rules are many…they want to forever eliminate the black market weed, so they are trying to control everything from seed to plant. Rules on dispensaries,where they can go, when they can sell,who…use of fertilizers,insecticides,..labeling, Nothing on banking, but the Fat Cat Ass Hats LOVE that quarterly cash tax payment…gonna be real tightly regulated by the time they’re done…BUT WE’VE GOT IT!
      the Upside…lots of market choices,a variety of all kinds of products. AND, this year we actually had a prize winning marijuana display at our State Fair…!

      Our many trials and tribulations of getting marijuana pales, in comparison to WTF Montana has to go through. Get OUT and VOTE…that’s how we came about…Get ’em where they where live…Donate to pot friendly candidates…let your voices be heard in the public forum…Make a BIG deal out of it…IT IS A BIG DEAL!

  • Philip Cammarano

    Being one who now has to grow my own all I can say is do not vote for daines in montana he sent me a form letter and what he believe from what I understand after reading his response was he is stuck in the 50 and early 60’s science , before nixons own council told him it was a harmless substance! I grow good bud but I fortunately have experience growing plants and all cannabis is is another plant, one quite easy to grow if you follow basics! I also got a response from john tester who flat out said he supports medical cannabis in montana and veterans rights to access it! Seems to me I vote tester and yes on 182 and if I ever saw daines in person I would most certainly ask him to sign a copy of reefer madness which is where his view of cannabis still is, the dark ages!

  • I’m actually a bit shocked the politics there is so backward ~ it’s truly a shame they don’t realize the benefit of a healing plant ~ a change will come ………..