A judge on Friday has ruled that Montana’s medical marijuana law does not protect those that provide medical marijuana to other from federal prosecution. US District Judge Donald Malloy dismissed a civil lawsuit that was filed by 14 individuals and businesses that were part of more than two dozen medical marijuana providers that were raided in March of last year in a coordinated effort between state and federal agents.
The providers were saying their constitutional rights were violated because state law allows them to grow and produce cannabis for medical consumption. Judge Malloy ruled on that age-old state’s rights versus federal government argument. Malloy said that the U.S. Constitution’s supremacy clause applies in medical marijuana cases, because the supremacy clause says that federal law prevails if there is any conflict between state and federal statutes.
His ruling said, “Whether the plaintiffs’ conduct was legal under Montana law is of little significance here, since the alleged conduct clearly violates federal law, we are all bound by federal law, like it or not.”
Montana medical marijuana activists have had a rough year with blow after blow to the medical marijuana industry in the state. A strict new medical marijuana law was put into place by legislators last summer, severely limiting the number of patients that will enroll in the program, and putting pressure on medical marijuana businesses like clinics and dispensaries. That legislative action is currently under a legal review and there will also be a question about the new laws, already in affect, that will appear on the November ballot for voters to endorse or reject.
Some of that new law was temporarily blocked by a state judge, but even with some of the legislation blocked, there has been a dramatic decrease in the number of patients and providers who are enrolled in the program. At the end of May, before the legislation took effect there were 31,522 patients registered with the program. According to the state Department of Public Health and Human Services that oversees the registration, there were 18,012 registered patients in December. In May there were 4,650 registered providers compared with only 395 of them last month.
The Attorney representing the medical marijuana providers in the civil case dismissed on Friday said the ruling is a clear warning to other medical marijuana providers in the state that the federal government can go after them if they want to now. He has said he and his clients have not decided if they will appeal the decision.