HELENA - Sen. Dave Lewis, R-Helena, will have a bill drafted for the 2011 Legislature so the state can regain control of its medical marijuana law.
Under the proposal, the state would license one single legal marijuana grower for all of Montana, instead of multiple growers, and place it under strict state controls.
Medical marijuana would be dispensed only through licensed pharmacists - and through prescriptions issued by "licensed, bona fide medical providers," Lewis said.
"The idea is that people who need it for medical reasons would get a prescription and could get it from a pharmacist," he said Monday. "We'd tax the heck out of it, but still make it reasonable for people to use for medical purposes. You wouldn't have 12,000 people allowed to possess it based on a prescription from a doctor from Ohio who came out for a weekend."
Sixty-two percent of Montana voters approved a 2004 state initiative to legalize medical marijuana.
Lewis said he worked on a 2009 bill sponsored by Sen. Ron Erickson, D-Missoula, because medical marijuana helped some of his wife's friends who underwent cancer treatment and encountered adverse reactions to chemotherapy.
"I think originally people used it for medical purposes and there was a lot of support for it," Lewis said. "I think now we've lost control of it. We've got 12,000 people with cards. I know from talking to teenagers it's suddenly available everywhere. People are sharing it or selling it."
A leading advocate of Montana's medical marijuana law, Tom Daubert of Helena, said he wishes Lewis would have called him first, but looks forward to working with him on the issue.
"I agree completely that we need to add strict regulation and oversight of production and distribution to the law," Daubert said. "But what he's proposing at this point is overly simplistic and not workable, but I know we can find a consensus solution that is in the best interests of patients."
Daubert helped write and campaign for the 2004 initiative, founded Patients and Families United, a statewide support group for medical marijuana patients, and has been involved in most related legal cases. Daubert is also a "caregiver" who can grow or provide medical marijuana for one or more patients.
Daubert said it is "flat not workable" to use pharmacists to dispense medical marijuana because federal law doesn't allow it.
However, he agrees with Lewis that strict regulation and oversight of marijuana production or growing and distribution is necessary.
Lewis' call to license a single grower and supplier of medical marijuana in Montana "is fraught with risk," Daubert said, saying it wouldn't work if a bug infestation damaged the grower's plants.
"In order to ensure reliable and dependable access, there needs to be diversity in production," he said.
Missoulian State Bureau reporter Charles S. Johnson can be reached at (406) 447-4066 or at email@example.com.