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Supreme Court lowered the bar on what it takes for special interests to kill a controversial industry through overbearing government regulation

The medical marijuana industry suffered a huge blow when its Supreme Court delivered its decision in Montana Cannabis Industry Association (MCIA) v. Montana. In the case, MTCIA tried to stop the 2011 Montana Marijuana Act (2011 Act) from effectively shutting down all (or nearly all) of Montana’s medical marijuana dispensaries.

Montana first legalized cannabis in 2004 when 62% of its voters approved voter initiative I-148, later called the 2004 Medical Marijuana Act (2004 Act).

The 2011 Act was written and passed with the intent to limit and control the medical marijuana community. Lawmakers felt that the law was too flexible and that many patients were taking advantage of the system. Most notably, lawmakers distrusted the reportedly high numbers of patients who fell within the “chronic pain” category of the law.

The four regulations in the 2011 Act that MCIA challenged are:

1) A requirement that the Department of Health and Human Services notify the Board of Medical Examiners of any physician who certifies 25 or more patients in a year for medical marijuana.

2) Commercial restrictions on marijuana providers, including a total ban on advertisements, and a prohibition on receiving any payment for providing marijuana to patients.

3) A limitation on the number of patients that can be served by a dispensary to only two (or three if the caregiver running the dispensary is also a patient.)

4) All medical marijuana providers’ businesses were subject to searches and inspections by state representatives or law enforcement at any time without a warrant or due process.

The court upheld the law on all points except one: remuneration. They ruled that there was no rational link between what the legislature did do (prohibiting any and all money from changing hands) and the goal of the law (to keep criminal organizations from infiltrating the marijuana industry). Because there was no rational link between the two, the provision is unconstitutional. All of the other provisions were ruled constitutional.

In 2011, Montana’s legislature disrespected 62% of its voters by passing a law that ignores the will of the people and takes doctor-prescribed medication away from patients. Last week, Montana’s Supreme Court lowered the bar on what it takes for special interests to kill a controversial industry through overbearing government regulation.

None of these acts stand up to our core American values of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The government can and should do better.