Why Montana medical marijuana backers are seeking the high court’s help

Why Montana medical marijuana backers are seeking the high court’s help

HELENA, Mont. The Montana Cannabis Industry Association is asking a district judge to further delay enforcement of stringent new Montana medical marijuana restrictions that are to go into effect Aug. 31.

The association on Tuesday filed a motion with Montanas 1st Judicial District Court in Helena for a stay until the U.S. Supreme Court takes action on an appeal or until the November election, when a proposed initiative expanding access to medicinal marijuana could be decided by Montana voters. Backers say they have collected more than the 24,175 signatures needed to place the measure on the ballot, pending certification by elections officials.

In February, the state Supreme Court affirmed key provisions of a 2011 state law restricting medical marijuana providers from selling the drug to more than three patients. The court later agreed to delay enforcement until August, but soon after the cannabis association asked the federal high court to reverse the state courts ruling.

In a petition filed in May with the nations high court, the association argues that the underpinnings of the state courts February ruling mistakenly assumed that marijuana is universally illegal under federal law. The group says that rationale led the court to uphold provisions in the 2011 state law limiting the number of patients marijuana providers can serve.

The federal court has yet to announce whether it will hear the case. It could do so by the end of this month, when the court ends its current term or wait until it reconvenes in October.

If the high court decides against taking up the case, medicinal marijuana backers argue that it would be prudent to delay enforcement until voters can weigh in on Initiative-182. If approved, the measure ...

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