by: Molly Davis
You have the opportunity to make a positive difference in people’s lives this fall. Montana residents will be able to vote on Initiative 182 (I-182) on November 8, 2016, an important referendum concerning the health and well-being of thousands of people around the state. If passed, I-182 would address crucial changes in Montana’s over-bearing and strict laws which negatively affect medical marijuana patients and caregivers. Although medical marijuana is already legal in Montana, I-182 is needed to abolish some of these very harmful restrictions currently in place.
I-182 addresses who caregivers can grow for, and requires them to obtain proper licensing. Caregivers are those who legally grow cannabis, create cannabis products, and sell to designated patients. The current law restricts growers to grow for only three people at a time. This is problematic because this limits their ability to earn income for growing. The three-patient cap only allows them to just break even with the costs associated with obtaining seeds, cultivating the cannabis plants, and transforming them into the finished product. I-182 will remove this cap and allow for them to have more patients so their businesses can be profitable. This initiative will also require caregivers to apply and pay for a medical license, which will make them accountable as a legitimate business.
This will be the second time in Montana history that voters have direct decision making power on the issue of medical marijuana. In 2004, the state passed a bill legalizing medical marijuana with an astounding 62% positive vote. However, there were slim restrictions under this law, and citizens became uneasy when thousands obtained access to cannabis. The popular opinion became one of concern. In 2011, a reactionary bill was introduced to the Montana legislature to restrict access to the cannabis, and impose restrictions on growers and cannabis industry business owners. However, it was put on hold, by the Montana Supreme Court until February of 2016 due to questions of constitutionality. Last month the bill was passed, and restrictions went into place in August of 2016. So far, medical marijuana businesses have suffered, alongside patients who have limited options with providers, and many, have even had their cards revoked. This is all due to the fear and misunderstanding of a society who pushed for more quick, regressive legislation.
Under current state law, citizens of Montana with chronic pain and PTSD have a difficult time accessing medicinal marijuana to treat negative effects of their conditions. If passed, I-182 will ease this process, ensuring that these patients can obtain their medicine.This means someone who has a condition that is difficult to treat with traditional medicine will now have another legal option to help them live normal lives.
For example, a patient who has Crohn’s disease, a chronic in ammatory bowel disease, will now be able to treat his illness with a legitimate legalized form of medication if this bill is passed.
You may have seen the signs around town, which are covered in bold writing stating,“No pot shops, vote no I-182.” These misleading ads were paid for by opponents who are a part of an anti-marijuana group, ironically named Safe Montana. Apparently keeping people’s medicine illegal is somehow considered safe. This group is making a false assumption that if I-182 is passed, pot shops will pop up everywhere—playing on a fear that many had back in 2009, when restrictions for medical cannabis were slim. However, this will not occur, because under I-182, only medical cannabis dispensaries will be allowed, and there will certainly be more attention given to location and size of businesses due to past concerns. Entrance to these dispensaries will only be permitted to patients who carry a medical card. Keep that in mind next time you come across one of these billboards across town.
This November, please consider voicing your opinion in this state-wide issue with a “yes” vote for I-182. Your vote does matter, especially because this is a local election. You can make a difference for the better this fall. To find out more on I-182 visit: www.yeson182.org.