MTPR

Bill Would Create Effective Date For Montana's Marijuana Initiative

Jan 31, 2017

HELENA -- Senate Majority Leader Fred Thomas, R-Stevensville, says his Senate Bill 131, which would correct an error on a medical marijuana initiative, is really about the power of the judicial branch of government.

The bill fixes the effective date of a voter-approved initiative that would repeal a three-patient limit for medical marijuana providers. But, the language in the bill also admonishes a district judge who ruled in December to repeal the limit before the effective date in the initiative.

Senate Majority Leader Fred Thomas, Republican from Stevensville.
Credit Corin Cates-Carney

"If you’re good with violating the constitution and letting the judges run this state, this bill is not for you. And you should re-examine your oath of office," Thomas said.

During a hearing on the bill in the House State Administration Committee, some lawmakers, like Sen. Bryce Bennett, D-Missoula, took issue with language about the court system.

"This bill in the whereas’s, calls out a district court judge, accuses them of violating the constitution, and I don’t think that’s necessary," Bennett said.

In Sen. Thomas’s closing remarks, he called the judge’s ruling unconstitutional. He also asked the committee to expedite the hearing for the bill. 

“The thought that a judge can rewrite a law, literally rewrite a law, is a little bizarre. Now, you might be fine with that because you like the outcome, fair enough? But it doesn’t mean it’s constitutional,” Thomas said.

The committee agreed to continue discussion on the bill. The bill passed the Senate last week after attempts to remove the language about the judge’s decision died on largely party lines.

Freddy Monares is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.