A look at Montanas’ IR-124: medical marijuana on the ballot

A look at IR-124: medical marijuana on the ballot

 Lauren Maschmedt, KTVM Reporter, lmaschmedt@ktvm.com

POSTED: Oct 11 2012 11:09:24 PM MDT  UPDATED: 11:16 PM Oct 11 2012

Medical Marijuana

LIVINGSTON, Mont. -

"I’ve never written one quite like this" said playwright Gary Weisgerber.

Weisgerber is working on a new musical about prohibition in the 1920s. He writes and composes from his Livingston home.

"Welcome to the underground" he sang, as he strummed the guitar.

He wears a glove on his left hand- one a few signs of the toll neck and head cancer took on his body.

He said it “left a considerable amount of nerve damage, particularly down my arm, into my hand and down into my legs.”

Weisgerber uses a combination of ibuprofen and medical marijuana to ease the pain. But he’s worried he’ll lose access to medical cannabis.

"It would be most unfortunate for a lot of cancer patients and other patients" he said.

He’s talking about Senate Bill 423.

Voters will decide this November whether they want the law, which places tight regulations on medical marijuana.

IR-124 put Senate Bill 423 on the ballot. Lawmakers passed the bill in the final days of the 2011 session.

The new restrictions include limiting providers to three patients, and barring them from making back operational costs. Medical marijuana advocates like Weisgerber said providers will shut down, and leave patients without access.

"We really had a problem going on in the state with the explosion of an industry that nobody had voted for" said Republican Representative Cary Smith of House District 55 in Billings, who was one of the main legislators behind SB 423.

Those for the bill said the industry was getting out of hand, and they argue SB 423 simply lays ground rules to regulate medical marijuana in a way the original voter-passed initiative in 2004 didn’t have the foresight to do.

"All the ballot language did not talk about creating an industry" Smith said. "It talked about something that you could do on your own."

SB 423 allows patients to grow medical marijuana themselves. But Weisgerber said marijuana isn’t easy to produce, even for yourself.

"Am I expected to somehow come up with the same medicines on my own?" he asked. "It’s a medicine, and it should be treated as such."

Smith argues that since medical marijuana is illegal on a federal level, the industry should be curbed.

"The state can’t say that anything that we pass is going to be recognized by the federal government" he said.

But patients like Gary are hoping SB 423 is the one to get knocked down.

Several people we talked to said the ballot language is a bit confusing. So to clarify, if you are for less restrictive medical marijuana regulations, then you vote “no” on IR-124 in November.

If you support the tougher regulations provided by SB 423, then you vote “yes.”

Oct 13. 0 Notes.