Medical Pot Law Defended by Its Sponsor

Medical Pot Law Defended by Its Sponsor



The controversial new medical marijuana law’s sponsor defended the measure Friday and warned of “unfortunate consequences” if a judge temporarily prevents its implementation.

Senate Majority Leader Jeff Essmann, a Republican from Billings, in an expression of his solid support for the 2011 law said that he is hoping that District Judge James Reynolds will not temporarily stop Senate Bill 423 from being implemented.

In an interview, he said, “We need to remember we had a bipartisan group of legislators that came together in the end in that conference committee that returned the law to what voters intended — a small program for truly ill individuals, a limited number of individuals.”

He also added, “I hope the judge doesn’t prevent a good-faith bipartisan effort to put some meaningful sideboards on a situation that shocked a lot of Montanans.”

A trade association of marijuana groups, the Montana Cannabis Industry Association, filed a lawsuit over the new law and has asked the court that it be blocked temporarily before it takes effect on July 1.

Essmann said that SB423 specifically grants police powers to cities, towns and counties to regulate the location and operation of medical marijuana businesses. Voters residing in his district were disturbed and upset at the presence of medical pot dispensaries just a block away from schools in Billings. He said that a temporary injunction may endanger that provision.

An attorney by profession, Essmann said that he is not aware of any legal authority granting the court the power to enjoin the full law. He said, “I think it’s beyond the scope of a court’s power, and it will have unfortunate consequences. That’s what raises a separation-of-powers question.”


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