Montana dispensaries close doors in response to new curbs

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Montana’s medical marijuana dispensaries closed their doors in response to new restrictions Wednesday limiting each storefront to just three patients, a move that forced them out of business, the Associated Press reported.

Now the dispensaries must look to voters for a new lease on life. Local residents will go to the polls in November and vote on an initiative backed by the Montana Cannabis Industry Association that aims to legalize the MMJ industry.

The restrictions took effect in response to a long-delayed 2011 state law that has now kicked in and allows MMJ providers just three customers each.

MMJ advocates had waged five years of failed court battles to overturn the 2011 law, which dramatically weakened a voter-approved measure that opened the doors to medical cannabis in Montana in 2004, the AP reported. It was among the most significant rollbacks ever of a state-approved MMJ program.

Even if voters do approve the ballot initiative, MMJ patients may have to wait until June before dispensaries can reopen. Organizers of the ballot initiative to reverse the 2011 law may have accidentally set their effort back by six months, owing to a mistake in the measure’s wording.

In a related development, the sponsor of a ballot initiative to repeal Montana’s MMJ law altogether has abandoned efforts to appeal a judge’s refusal to place the measure on the ballot, the AP reported. Billings auto dealer Steve Zabawa will instead focus his efforts on defeating the pro-MMJ ballot initiative.