Suzanne Potter with Public News Service writes:

Backers of the state's medical marijuana initiative are criticizing the DEA's decision, published today in the Federal Register, to continue classifying marijuana as a Schedule One drug, on par with heroin.

That means it will still be illegal under federal law, even though 42 states, including Montana, allow some form of medical cannabis. The DEA claims there are no adequate safety studies that prove marijuana has health benefits.

Kate Cholewa, an organizer with the Montana Cannabis Industry Association took issue with that assessment.

"Maybe they're not all American studies, but there's an abundance of studies out of Israel, Spain, Japan," she said. "It's just simply not true that there's not research demonstrating a medical application for the cannabinoids, and the plant-based ones in marijuana."

The DEA did say it will make it easier to study medical marijuana by allowing more research institutions to grow the plants. Montana passed its first medical pot initiative in 2004. Then, the legislature gutted it, and some provisions were put on hold by litigation, which failed. So, as of August 31st, providers of medical marijuana in Montana will be limited to three patients apiece, which means the majority of patients will be cut off.

Cholewa said she's still optimistic that this year's ballot Initiative 182, which reestablishes a regulated medical marijuana program, will pass.

"It's a 12-year-long struggle to keep a program in place that's helping cancer patients, and hospice patients and seizure patients, all throughout the state," she added. "And the citizens are behind it."

Initiative 182 would remove the three-patient limit, and require providers to obtain state licenses, pay fees and submit to unannounced annual inspections.



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