A local senator said he will make up his mind on a proposal to overturn medical marijuana after he hears testimony in committee Friday.
Sen. Rowlie Hutton, R-Havre, said the commitee expects to vote on the bill, sponsored by Republican Speaker of the House Mike Milburne, Friday after they hear testimony on the bill. Action that quickly is not common, he added.
“We all know we need to do something,” Hutton said.
Milburne has proposed eliminating the provisions allowing use of medical marijuana, approved overwhelmingly by voters in 2004. His bill passed the House Feb. 21 62-37.
Havre’s Republican representatives, Wendy Warburton and Kris Hansen, voted in favor of the bill. Democrat Tony Belcourt of Box Elder voted against it.
Numerous bills have come up suggesting changes or amendments to medical marijuana, use of which has exploded in the last year and a half.
Montana voters approved an initiative by a 62-percent margin in 2004 to allow the production and sale of the herb, which is considered an illegal drug under federal law, for treatment of pain and nausea in chronic and terminal conditions such as cancer, glaucoma, human immunodeficiency virus, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, severe or chronic pain, severe nausea, seizures and severe or persistent muscle spasms.
Under the law, a marijuana patient is allowed to have up to six plants and one ounce of prepared marijuana in their possession. The caregiver named as able to provide the herb to the patient also may have up to six plants and one ounce of prepared marijuana, for each of the caregiver’s patients.
The people applying to be approved as providers of the herb, known as caregivers under state law, and to be prescribed the drug to treat conditions grew slowly in the first five years, then exploded last fall.
Charges have been filed across the state alleging that people are abusing or breaking the medical marijuana law, including pending trials of Malisa Fitzpatrick and Delaine Fitzpatrick of Havre.
Hutton said a series of bills on the issue will be heard in the Senate Friday, giving people who want to testify on either side the opportunity to speak on more than one bill.
Milburne’s is the highest-profile bill, he added.
“That, obviously, is the one that is in the hot seat right now,” Hutton said. “It’s the one most people are talking about.”
He said that after he hears testimony on both sides of Milburne’s bill he will decide whether he believes it is the right answer. He said the bill would allow the state to shut down the operation with the option of crafting new regulations on medical marijuana to bring in later.
Hutton added that something needs to be done.
“I don’t think that it would be a shock to anybody to say what we have right now in Montana is not what the voters intended, and we need some kind of a complete overhaul.”