With the passage of Senate Bill 423, many Montanans thought the medical marijuana scene would die down in the state. However, that may not be the case. Although the new law prohibits the sale of medical marijuana, many caregivers are finding themselves switching into a new, but related occupation.
With only two weeks until the new law goes into effect, medical marijuana caregivers and store owners across the Treasure State are preparing for an ending and a new beginning.
“Basically what it’s done is dropped these walls and marijuana’s coming to a neighborhood near you. The patients, that’s the only place they have to grow their medicine,” said Rich Abromeit, Montana Advanced Caregiver owner.
Owners Rich Abromeit and Jason Smith say that’s because the law is moving caregiving to the patient, opening up the world of medical marijuana consulting to anyone.
“I call it the flaw in the law of SB 423,” said Jason Smith, Montana Advanced Caregiver owner.
Both Abromeit and Smith say although they are shutting down their current operation, they will start new jobs as consultants helping teach people how to grow their own . However they feel ,at least under the old law there were more checks and balances.
“By becoming a consultant I don’t have to police anything. My hands are wiped,” Smith said.
“Consulting is not prohibited from everybody’s reading under SB 423,” said Billings City Attorney Brent Brooks, adding, “If that’s all they do.”
Even with the new law, storefronts will be allowed to remain in the city. Although caregivers won’t be able to sell cannabis, they”ll be able to sell their knowledge and growing supplies.
The Billings Police Department is also gearing up for the new law. SB 423 allows local governments to regulate the industry.
“It gives us the right to inspect during normal business hours as the law stands now. So there is some law enforcement responsibilities there for us and we’ll take them seriously,” said Billings Police Sgt. Kevin Iffland.
However, all eyes are on Helena because medical marijuana advocates are suing over the validity of the new law.
“The district jude presiding over that litigation has told the parties that it will be resolved or at least he will rule before July 1.”
Even with a decision close, it appears the battle over medical marijuana is far from over.
“It is an evolving situation even as we speak and a long road, but I think we’re heading toward more clarity in terms of what local law enforcement and the city council and mayor can do or not do,” Brooks said.
Lewis and Clark County District Judge James Reynolds is expected to hear the challenge against the state’s new medical marijuana law next Monday and Tuesday.
Meanwhile, medical marijuana advocates continue to raise funds to help pay the cost of their long term litigation efforts.