Montana has had its medical marijuana program since 2004, making it among the early adopters of the state-level programs that are now present in 23 states and Washington DC. State medical marijuana programs effectively received a free pass to operate without fear of federal interference following a Justice Department announcement in 2009.
Despite these facts and the steady shift in public opinion on marijuana, Montana’s program may be in jeopardy.
A state Supreme Court decision, coming as soon as October, may end it all.
A boom period in which the number of patients increased seven-fold followed the Justice Department announcement. This resulted in backlash from detractors, who claimed that the law was being abused. An 18-month DEA investigation led to raids on shops who were accused of being involved in criminal activity.
A repeal of the Montana medical marijuana law almost passed in 2011, had it not been for a veto from Democrat Governor Brian Schweitzer. A bill eventually made it through that severely limited the economic freedom of shops in the state. It nearly had the effect of an appeal, causing many shops to close suddenly. A judge’s order later eased the restrictions, but the damage was done.
Growers and patients in the state see it differently. They are now struggling to find access to medicine and still have a valid fear of raids, while detractors only continue to add pressure wherever they can.