Medical Marijuana in Bozeman

As of Jan. 29 there were 206 doctors overseeing 13,640 patients using medical marijuana in Montana, according to the Department of Public Health and Human Services. They are supplied by 471 growers.

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Montana Senate Majority Leader Fred Thomas urged colleagues in Helena to fast-track corrections to the medical marijuana initiative passed by voters in November — and they did.

The Senate State Administration Committee voted 6-2 on Monday, moving the bill into position for a full Senate vote. Normally, lawmakers wait to vote for several days after holding a hearing on a bill.

Senate Bill 131 places in law an immediate effective date for Initiative 182, which removed the Legislature’s drastic restrictions on the state’s medical-marijuana program.

The ballot measure passed on Nov. 8 with 291,334 votes to 212,089. The ballot measures’ drafter rearranged some sections, accidentally making its effective date June 30, 2017, a fact not discovered until after the election.

In December, Lewis and Clark District Court Judge James Reynolds ordered the initiative effective immediately.

Republican lawmakers criticized the judge’s order as a violation of the constitutional process.

So the committee also voted to keep language in Thomas’ bill that admonishes the court for violating the state constitution.

“The judicial branch has ability to review the law,” Thomas said. “But they don’t change the law; they don’t write the law.”

Democratic Sens. Sue Malek of Missoula and Lea Whitford of Cut Bank voted no after failing to remove the reprimand.

“We can’t accuse a court of violating the Montana Constitution,” said Malek. “I don’t think we have the legal knowledge to state that.”

Sen. Doug Kary, R-Billings, and other Republicans supported the language. “I think its beyond high time the legislative branch be the legislative branch rather than bowing to the judicial branch and executive branch,” said Kary.

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Troy Carter can be reached at 582-2630 or tcarter@dailychronicle.com. He’s on Twitter at @cartertroy.

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Troy Carter covers politics and county government for the Chronicle.

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