BILLINGS – Safe Montana founder Steve Zabawa announced his support of a court ruling that curtailed the state medical marijuana program while reinforcing his own campaign to repeal it altogether.
At a public appearance on Tuesday, Zabawa praised the Montana Supreme Court's decision to uphold a 2011 bill that pulls back on the marijuana program. Among the new regulations, he said that the limit of three patients per provider will help to reduce recreational use under the program.
There are currently more than 13,000 registered medical marijuana patients. With the current number of registered providers, a limit of three would serve about 1,400 patients.
"We estimate with Safe Montana, that's about all the stage 3 and stage 4 cancer patients that are out there, (and those) that have epilepsy or any of the type of things medical marijuana might be working on," he said. "So we believe that there's enough medicine out there to take care of the people."
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The state Department of Public Health and Human Services has said that it is concerned about patients losing access to "effective treatment."
Safe Montana's ballot initiative, I-176, would repeal the medical marijuana program and align the drug with illegal status under federal law.
The campaign has staff across the state and has spent more than $18,000 since January on its efforts. Zabawa himself has put $35,000 into the campaign. On Tuesday, he said that they have about half of the 24,000 required signatures to get his issue on the November ballot.
A competing ballot initiative, I-178, aims to legalize recreational marijuana. The leader of that campaign, Anthony Varriano of Glendive, said Tuesday that he estimates they have between 8,000 and 10,000 signatures.
That campaign, dubbed Cycling for Sensible Drug Policy, has about $1,600 in the bank from individual donations, according to its finance report.
A third ballot initiative, which has yet to be approved for signature-gathering, will seek to expand the medical marijuana program.
After the Supreme Court upheld the medical marijuana rollback law, the Montana Cannabis Industry Association, the plaintiff in the original lawsuit, filed a motion to stave off the effective date of the new regulations. On Tuesday, the Montana Attorney General's Office filed for a shorter transition.
Zabawa said on Tuesday that he supports cannabis-derivative medicine that's approve through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but the current system has been misused.
“We know that there’s nothing good about federally illegal schedule 1 drugs,” he said.