Medical marijuana cardholder numbers keep falling

2012-05-07T20:20:00Z 2012-05-08T08:45:07Z Medical marijuana cardholder numbers keep fallingGazette State Bureau The Billings Gazette
May 07, 2012 8:20 pm  • 

HELENA — The number of registered medical marijuana cardholders registered with the state continues to fall, dipping to below 11,000 last month.

As of April 30, 10,640 Montanans were registered as medical marijuana users with the state, down from 11,993 as of the end of March, for an 11.2 percent drop, according to registry statistics kept by the state Department of Public Health and Human Services.

The April total is the lowest monthly number since the 7,339 medical marijuana cardholders (formerly called patients) started registering as of Dec. 31, 2009.

The total number of Montana medical marijuana cardholders peaked at 31,522 on May 31, 2011, a month before most parts of a much more restrictive law passed by the 2011 Legislature took effect.

Despite the falling numbers, marijuana advocates have estimated there are 100,000 Montanans who regularly use pot. The tougher state law, they said, has driven more people to buy marijuana illegally on the black market instead of going through the state program.

The latest statistics also showed 414 Montana providers (formerly called caregivers) were registered through April 30, down from 421 as of March 31. Providers are the people legally authorized to grow and sell marijuana to cardholders for medicinal purposes. The number of providers peaked at 4,848 in March 2011.

The number of physicians licensed to recommend medical marijuana to patients remained at 254 on April 30, the same total reported at the end of March. Their numbers peaked at 365 as of June 30, 2011.

In 2004, by 62 percent to 38 percent, Montanans approved an initiative to legalize the use of marijuana for certain medicinal purposes.

The number of medical marijuana cardholders began soaring in 2010 after a series of "cannabis caravans" traveled the state and signed up thousands of patients, often after a consultation with a physician in person or via the Internet that lasted only several minutes. Medical pot storefronts sprung up around Montana.

The Republican-controlled 2011 Legislature passed a bill to repeal the 2004 law that legalized medical pot in Montana, but Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer vetoed it.

After that, the Legislature passed another bill aimed at making it more difficult to legally buy and sell medical marijuana. Schweitzer let it become law without his signature.

The total numbers of medical marijuana cardholders and providers have dropped greatly since passage of the 2011 law.

Another major factor cited by industry officials was the series of federal raids of several dozen marijuana growing and selling operations in March 2011. A number of people involved with those businesses have been charged and entered guilty pleas in federal court.

A Helena district judge on June 30, 2011, temporarily blocked parts of the 2011 state law from going into effect the next day.

On May 30, the Montana Supreme Court will hear the state's appeal of that decision, along with an appeal by the Montana Cannabis Industry Association, over other parts of that decision.

Opponents of the tougher marijuana law last year obtained enough signatures to put it on the November 2012 ballot as a referendum. Montanans then will have a chance to decide whether to retain or reject the law.

In addition, some groups are gathering signatures for a separate ballot measure to legalize the possession, sale and consumption of marijuana by adults.

Copyright 2015 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(25) Comments

  1. danielsgb
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    danielsgb - May 08, 2012 10:21 pm
  2. Infamous J
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    Infamous J - May 08, 2012 1:11 pm
    Legal ran roughly $7-$10 per gram (if the provider even bothered to charge).

    Cicada is incorrect-black market runs $300 to $400 per ounce, and the price to renew a license goes up to $75 this June.
  3. Infamous J
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    Infamous J - May 08, 2012 1:09 pm
    The original list is protected by HIPAA. The new law changed that. Also, the feds are not pursuing individual medical cannabis users. Nice try.
  4. TheNarcoleptica
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    TheNarcoleptica - May 08, 2012 12:40 pm
    Los Zetas Cartel thanks Montana Politicians....
  5. bobbymagee
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    bobbymagee - May 08, 2012 11:34 am
    it went down because its safer to do it illegally. nothing else.
  6. smitti
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    smitti - May 08, 2012 11:13 am
    The list of registered and previously registered "patients" should keep the DEA busy for quite a while.
  7. rainbowed
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    rainbowed - May 08, 2012 11:09 am
    LOL! In your dreams maybe.
  8. rainbowed
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    rainbowed - May 08, 2012 11:08 am
    What does it run from legal sources?
  9. hikertrash
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    hikertrash - May 08, 2012 9:51 am
    Does anyone want their name on that list? Nice job pushing it back to the black market.
  10. Michael
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    Michael - May 08, 2012 8:52 am
    When you can't even get a reliable source for your medicine, why would someone stick with the "legal" method? If the feds spent half as much time going after pharmacies for mass distributing legal opiates, our society would be much safer for all.
  11. danielsgb
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    danielsgb - May 08, 2012 8:21 am
    It's schedule 2, so approved for medical uses.

    Plus with Meth the asset forfeiture is lower, so they aren't as concerned.
  12. 1000cakes4u
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    1000cakes4u - May 08, 2012 8:11 am
    The government can have my marijuana sticks when they pry them from my cold, Dorito-stained hands.
  13. Mike K
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    Mike K - May 08, 2012 8:02 am
    What's left to raid?
  14. fountain of smart
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    fountain of smart - May 08, 2012 7:40 am
    where are all of the 'state's rights' people on this issue???? what a total farce, call in the feds on your own fellow Montanans? hypocrits! PROHIBITION DOES NOT WORK!
  15. danielsgb
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    danielsgb - May 08, 2012 7:31 am
    An out of stater. Quit referring to the situation as 'We'.

    It's us. We voted it in and will be taking legislators to task over it.

    If you think any of the 20,000 patients QUIT using cannabis, then you're on crack.
  16. danielsgb
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    danielsgb - May 08, 2012 7:28 am
    The reason it's dropping is the ATF & guns, plus we had no support from elected legislators, or Schweitzer.

    BTW the state raised the fee 300%
    Report Abuse
    REALITY CHECK - May 08, 2012 7:27 am
    Headline should read: Needless Suffering in Montana on the Increase

    Peace to all, Reality
  18. Rainman
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    Rainman - May 08, 2012 6:23 am
    Medical MJ is on the way out for most, doctors are hard to find that will sign off, caregivers are very limited. No one wants to be involved in a raid. Montana, an extremist state!
  19. BillingsCapitolofNewOldWest
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    BillingsCapitolofNewOldWest - May 08, 2012 6:04 am
    Meanwhile meth is ignored.
  20. magpie_us_hwy2
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    magpie_us_hwy2 - May 08, 2012 6:04 am
    Thanks to Republican efforts people have quit smoking marijuana........
  21. Bowzer
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    Bowzer - May 08, 2012 5:45 am
    Keep it illegal, just what the mexican drug cartels want. Right wingers are their own worst enemy.
  22. home stretch
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    home stretch - May 08, 2012 5:43 am
    The same number of people continue to use cannabis but no tax dollars are collected. How does this benefit Montana?
    More mothers and fathers in prison and children on welfare. How does this benefit Montana?
    Taxpayer dollars flying out the window. How does this benefit Montana?
    Prohibition at its finest and no end in sight. Soon, our guns will be confiscated and we will become subjects instead of citizens.

    Those of you that cheer every time one of your neighbors are arrested sicken me. self righ
  23. Cicada
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    Cicada - May 08, 2012 5:42 am
    No, the cost of renewing the license is less than $50 for a year. Street prices of pot run about $200 to $250 per ounce.
  24. Granpa P
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    Granpa P - May 08, 2012 1:28 am
    I think the reason the numbers are dropping is because the pot smokers would rather spend their money on illegal street pot rather then spending their money on renewing their cards.
  25. cme
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    cme - May 07, 2012 11:46 pm
    we need a few more fed raids to happen. the no's will go down even more.

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