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Medical marijuana debate coming to Helena

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The Montana Legislature will hear the first of several medical marijuana bills on Friday.

House Bill 68 would change the current law, passed by voters in 2004and people on both sides of the medical marijuana debate say the current Montana law needs changing.

“It’s been up to us as caregivers for the most part to self regulate ourselves,” said Mark Higgins, owner of medical marijuana store, Montannabis, Inc. In Billings. “Not everybody is good at that. And I think that’s where a lot of the problems came in at.”

“This will have a dramatic effect, not only kids. But when you have addicted kids,you’re wrecking families,” said Cherrie Brady, co-founder and chair of Billings-based Safe Community Safe Kids. “That wrecks the whole community.”

Brady does not support House Bill 68. “It allows double the amount of marijuana,” Brady said. “And it takes all the power from cities and towns to ban it.”

“They (the bill’s sponsors) want to see two doctors sign off on those patients as this is a valid use for that,” Higgins said. “I think that’s responsible.”

Brady supports repealing Montana’s Medical Marijuana law and says it can not be rewritten.

“The current medical marijuana law that we have is really riddled with loopholes,” Brady said. “It was written basically to tie the hands of law enforcement.”

Higgins agrees there are loopholes and the law makes it difficult for law enforcement…but he prefers rewriting to repealing the law.

“When you do that, you’ve got a lot of patients who will be without access to medicine,” Higgins said. “A lot of people have invested a lot of money and a lot of time getting or systems and our practices up.”

Both see their view as the best solution.

“The legislators are trying to adjust it so the incorrect users can’t use it anymore,” Higgins said.

“We have a very real chance for a repeal,” Brady said.

Both Brady and Higgins plan on testifying on Friday.

The Montana Board of Medical Examiners believes the bill, which is intended to restrict who can get medical marijuana, contains wording that could end up having the opposite result and increase eligibility.

House Bill 68 is sponsored by Democrat Representative Diane Sands of Missoula on behalf of the Legislature’s Children, Families, Health and Human Services interim committee.

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