Montana Supreme Court ruling guts state’s MMJ industry

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The sky has fallen in Montana.

The state Supreme Court issued a ruling on Thursday in a case that’s been ongoing since 2011 over a law approved by the state legislature that was intended to basically regulate the medical cannabis industry out of existence. Though the court didn’t side completely with lawmakers, it upheld enough of the law to signal a virtual end to dispensaries and cannabis businesses in Montana.

According to the Associated Press, the court ruled that MMJ “providers” can sell cannabis to no more than three patients each, but are allowed to accept payment. It also upheld a ban on MMJ advertising, as well as a requirement that any doctor who recommends cannabis for more than 25 patients be subject to an automatic state review.

In a statement, Marijuana Policy Project called the ruling “a huge blow to Montana’s patients and those who provide to them.”

The ruling marks the most significant rollback in cannabis reform in recent history. Montana legalized MMJ in 2004 at the ballot box, but conservative lawmakers have been trying to crack down on dispensaries and marijuana businesses since they began proliferating in 2009 after the Ogden Memo was released.

There are only an estimated 50-60 dispensaries left in Montana, since many have closed down over the years as the state has made it increasingly difficult to do business in the cannabis trade. The ruling from the Supreme Court will likely mean the end of those storefronts as well, and if the MMJ trade survives, it’ll likely be in the form of small-scale legal caregivers and the underground market.

More of the background, along with a summary of the ruling, can be found here.