“FLOWER HAS BEEN FORCED TO CLOSE,” reads the sign on the door of the medical cannabis provider’s brand-new storefront in downtown Missoula.
Flower just moved here in early August. The dispensary’s owner says the new storefront is costing three times the rent he paid at the old location. The new place is larger and handicapped accessible, and it sits on Higgins Avenue, a main thoroughfare. It should be a great location—if it’s allowed to reopen.
Like every other cannabis dispensary in Montana, Flower was forced to shut its doors four weeks ago.
The shuttering of the state’s dispensaries had been looming for months. Back in February the Montana Supreme Court ruled that the provisions of a law passed by the legislature in 2011—Senate Bill 423—were legal and binding. Those provisions limit providers of medical marijuana to only three card-holding patients each. They also incur a medical board of review for any doctor recommending cannabis to more than 25 patients per year–and the doctor must pay for all board of review expenses.
More than 13,600 card-holding Montana patients have lost access to their medicine.
The ruling finally did what Senate Bill 423 was crafted to do: effectively shut down the state’s medical cannabis system.
Enactment of the ruling was delayed until August 31, at which point it shuttered every dispensary in Montana. Almost all of the state’s 13,600+ card-holding patients have lost access to their medicine.
In November, Montana voters will have the chance to revive the dispensaries and reboot the state’s medical cannabis program. Or they may allow it to die altogether. Initiative 182, measure crafted by the Montana Cannabis Industry Association, would legalize and better regulate the same medical marijuana dispensaries that were just shut down.
How did we get here? Jerry Bennett, R-Libby, listens to debate on the state’s medical marijuana law on Feb.