Judge: Montana dispensaries can reopen immediately

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A Montana judge ruled Wednesday that a medical marijuana initiative approved last month by voters should take effect immediately, paving the way for dispensaries to reopen months earlier than expected.

A drafting error in the Nov. 8 ballot initiative had postponed the measure’s implementation until July 1.

But District Judge James Reynolds of Helena sped up that timeline by ruling that the state must immediately drop a three-patient limit for medical cannabis providers enacted by lawmakers in 2011 and implemented in August, local TV station KTVQ reported. That law had effectively shut down Montana’s MMJ industry, forcing dozens of dispensaries to close because they could not survive by serving just three patients.

The successful ballot initiative was drafted to revive the industry by removing that patient limit.

State officials didn’t stand in the way of the judge, who ruled the drafting error shouldn’t prevent ill patients from getting medical cannabis ASAP, according to the Associated Press.

Montana voters approved MMJ back in 2004. But the 2011 anti-marijuana measure effectively shuttered the market at the end of August. MMJ advocates had waged five years of failed court battles to overturn the 2011 law.