Drug Reform Backlash: Montana House Votes to Repeal Medical Marijuana

 The Republican-dominated Montana House voted Thursday to overturn the will of the voters and repeal the medical marijuana law created by a 2004 ballot initiative. The measure now moves to the state Senate.

House Speaker Mike Milburn (R-Cascade), who sponsored the bill, HB 161, said medical marijuana had gone too far in the state and what now exists is beyond what the voters approved. He said the state's medical marijuana law had attracted a criminal element.

"It is starting to undermine the entire fabric of our state," Milburn said during floor debate. "It is time to take back our state and our culture and do what is best for Montana. This bill says shut down everything—it's gone way too far."

House Democrats argued against a full repeal of the law and blamed the legislature's failure to act to regulate the industry for the explosion in medical marijuana use in the state.

"We had many years to regulate what 62% of voters approved, and did nothing," said Rep. Pat Noonan (D-Butte).

"We tried prohibition once and it didn't work," said Rep. Diane Sands (D-Missoula). "It is not going away," she said of medical marijuana. "It does have a legitimate medical use."

Although repeal passed easily in the House, it faces much tougher prospects in the Senate. While there is general agreement that Montana medical marijuana needs legislative attention, there are several bills that seek to tax or regulate medical marijuana, not recriminalize it.

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