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HELENA - A prominent Ravalli County Republican lawmaker wants to overturn Montana's 2004 voter-passed law that legalized medical marijuana, saying the current scheme controlling prescription pot is fatally flawed.

Sen. Jim Shockley, R-Victor, has requested a bill be drafted for the 2011 Legislature to repeal the marijuana law.

However, Shockley said he believes marijuana has medical benefits and should remain legal, only in a much more controlled way.

"It was a good idea, poorly executed," Shockley said Tuesday. "I wouldn't want everybody growing (prescription painkiller) Percocet, either."

Some 62 percent of Montana voters approved medical marijuana by initiative in 2004. It allows Montanans to get certifications from doctors to buy up to one ounce of marijuana at a time from a licensed caregiver

The state has more than 2,700 licensed caregivers, according to state information, and more than 15,000 citizens with medical marijuana cards.

The explosive growth in the industry, coupled with a handful of violent acts involving medical marijuana businesses and growers, has prompted a crackdown on the industry around the state in recent months. City councils across Montana have voted to suspend new licenses for medical marijuana businesses and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes voted to outlaw medical marijuana entirely for tribal members on the Flathead Indian Reservation.

Shockley said the current system has no controls for growing marijuana, dosage and distribution. He said there's really nothing stopping a cardholder from abusing their marijuana and seeking constant refills.

There has "been uncontrolled use of the drug," he said. "I think it breeds lawlessness."

Shockley said an appropriate, controlled system of medical marijuana was too complicated for the initiative process.

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Tom Daubert of Helena, who headed the drive to legalize medical marijuana and is now part of a statewide co-op of growers, agreed Tuesday that the current system has problems, but it shouldn't be overturned.

"The law doesn't need to be repealed, but it definitely needs to be fixed," he said. "I completely agree that all growing and dispensing needs to be heavily monitored by the state."

Daubert said he supports the work of an interim legislative committee now looking at ways of regulating the industry. He said some medical marijuana promoters, namely Jason Christ, founder and executive director of Missoula's Montana Caregivers Network, are cynically exploiting flaws in the law.

Christ has been photographed publicly smoking marijuana. His network runs traveling clinics where people can get medical marijuana cards.

Daubert called those a "factory circus clinic" and said such "behaviors are nails in the coffin of this law and disrespecting the genuine needs of worthy patients."

Christ said the network's clinics have driven up the profile of medical marijuana, but he said they are not a pot free-for-all.

"What I'm finding is that caregivers are very conscientious," he said. Caregivers "really want to do everything the right way, which I attribute to the kindness and compassion of Montanans for fellow Montanans."

Christ is not a caregiver, but said he has a medical marijuana card to control hemorrhoid pain associated with Crohn's and celiac disease, both problems of the gastrointestinal system.

 

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