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Montana Will Vote on Legalizing Medical Marijuana With Initiative 182

Initiative 182 would repeal the three-patient limit for medical marijuana providers, allowing for wider use of medical marijuana.
Kane Johnson, 33, owns Kane's Art Glass, putting the glass blowing skills he learned 15 years ago in Washington state to use in Montana's burgeoning medical marijuana industry. Image: Linda Thompson/The Missoulian/AP

Montana wants to expand its access to medical marijuana, but public opinion has been divided on the issue.

Initiative 182 would repeal the three-patient limit for medical marijuana providers, allowing for wider use of medical marijuana. The initiative would also eliminate a state law that currently requires doctors who prescribe medical marijuana to more than 25 patients a year to be reviewed by the state board of medical examiners.

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It also forbids law enforcement from making unannounced inspections of medical marijuana facilities and requires annual inspections by the state instead.

A majority of Montana voters oppose the ballot initiative, a recent study found. A poll released earlier this month by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research found 51 percent of voters opposed the initiative, while 44 percent supported it.

Meanwhile, supporters argue that expanding access to medical marijuana helps Montana residents suffering from chronic conditions have access to marijuana's palliative benefits.

"Someday you or someone you love may need safe, legal access to medical marijuana. You, or they, may have cancer, epilepsy, IBS, colitis, or Crohn's disease, Parkinson's, breast cancer, a recent heart attack, or may be a veteran or emergency worker with PTSD," former Bozeman, Montana, mayor said in an opinion column in "The Billings Gazette." "With these draconian, nonsensical laws, you and your loved ones aren't going to get what you need for pain, symptom relief, or a cure."

Opponents argue that the voting public doesn't have the medical knowledge to be making public health decisions and that legislation on medical marijuana shouldn't be done through a ballot measure. They also state there isn't a regulated distribution system for medical marijuana yet, so it shouldn't be expanded in the state.

Supporters of the initiative include Montana Sens. Dick Barrett, Mary McNally and Nels Swandal and Montana Reps. Jon Sesso, Ellie Hill and Tom Woods.

Opponents include Montana Sen. Carry Smith and Montana Reps. Seth Berglee and Tom Berry.

"Significant abuse by physicians of the "Medical Marijuana Act" was a problem. Some physicians recommended cards for chronic pain without using relevant and necessary diagnostic tests to verify chronic pain," opponents wrote in a state ballot guide. "If I-182 passes, abuses will continue."

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