Voters to Get Final Say on Controversial Montana Marijuana Bill

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Montana voters will decide the fate of a controversial bill enacted earlier this year that introduced strict limits and regulations on the state’s medical marijuana industry.

The Montana Secretary of State’s office said organizers behind the referendum campaign gathered enough signatures to get the issue on the November 2012 ballot.

The state legislature passed a bill this year to repeal Montana’s medical pot laws – which voters approved in 2004 by a wide margin – and make it more difficult for patients to get cards. Pot proponents challenged the bill in court. They won a partial victory: some parts of the law are still on hold, though others are in place today.

In the past few months, however, the state’s medical marijuana industry has shriveled, with the number of card-carrying patients dropping 16 percent and the number of dispensaries/caregivers falling 94 percent.

Patients for Reform – Not Repeal began a drive this summer to gather enough signatures to let voters decide whether or not the state should enact the tough new rules. State officials said the group met the required threshold of 24,337 signatures and at least 5 percent of voters in a minimum of 34 House districts.

The backlash that led to the regulations is tied to a proliferation of medical marijuana dispensaries over the past two years and what some residents say are offensive marketing tactics by the industry.