February 26, 2003
Nobody in Montana should be allowed to smoke marijuana, not even those with debilitating injuries or sicknesses, the House decided Wednesday in a 60-40 vote.
Legal use of medicinal marijuana may be OK in other states, but shouldn't be allowed in Montana, said opponents of House Bill 506.
Supporters said marijuana helps people suffering from cancer, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma and other diseases.
"I would hope that we would allow people in pain an option," said Rep. Jesse Laslovich. "Now we are tying it up in politics and talk of wars on drugs. But that's not what it's about."
The bill would have set up a registry for people who could prove each year that they needed the drug. It would have allowed them to grow up to 15 marijuana plants, but they could not sell it or use it in public places.
Registrants would pay an annual fee that Rep. Ron Erickson, D-Missoula, the sponsor of the bill, estimated at several hundred dollars.
"The people of this country want to be able to alleviate pain, alleviate pain through the use of medical marijuana," Erickson said.
He said nine states have legalized medical marijuana.
Fiscal analysts estimated that about 160 people would sign up in Montana for the program in the first year.
"Fifteen plants is a hell of a lot of dope," said Rep. Scott Sales, R-Bozeman. "It's going to be given away, given to kids. This is going to be a horrible thing to control."
Supporters said the measure, modeled after an Oregon law, had enough restrictions to control the drug's use.
The House Judiciary Committee approved the bill last week on a 13-5 vote.
But some committee members said they changed their minds after thinking about the message it would send kids.
"What kind of message are we sending to our young?" said Rep. Bill Thomas,
R-Hobson. "They could say grandpa voted for pot back in the Legislature."
Copyright © 2003 Associated Press