Will Montana be the first state to lose their medical marijuana program? It is certainly the first state to have moved backward (as the country moves forward) in regards to access.
Starting in 2009, between the Ogden memo that made it seem that the federal government would not prosecute medical marijuana providers in states with programs and the emergence of travelling clinics offering fast and easy green cards, the number of patients and providers grew exponentially over 18 months, the number of patients skyrocketing from 4,000 to 30,000.
Of course, the number of providers grew, too. Welcome to the principal of demand and supply. In response, the 2011 Montana Legislature passed a law to dismantle the program. The key provisions that did this were disallowing compensation for the provider (you had to provide it for free) and you could only do so for up to three people.
When it came to dismantling the program, the federal raids of 2011 helped, too, shutting down some of the larger providers and frightening patients out of participating.
The Montana Cannabis Information Association challenged the law and was successful in getting several provisions enjoined, mostly critically the ones involving compensation and the allowable number of patient-clients.
The state appealed and Montana Supreme Court sent the decision back down to the lower court, saying that Judge Reynolds of Helena had used the wrong lens in making his decision, using “strict scrutiny,” as opposed to “rational scrutiny.” The right to vote or travel is protected by strict scrutiny. Under strict scrutiny, the state must prove the provisions aren’t unconstitutional. With rational scrutiny, they must only prove the provisions are a reasonable means to an end the state has the right to pursue.