MONTANA HOUSE AGAIN APPROVES REPEAL OF MEDICAL MARIJUANA LAW
HELENA - On a mostly party-line vote with Republicans in favor, the Montana House voted again Saturday to repeal Montana's medical marijuana law, after a House panel examined the measure's fiscal impacts.
House Bill 161, by Speaker Mike Milburn, R-Cascade, now faces a final House vote, probably on Monday, before heading to the Senate.
The House voted 63-37 to pass HB161, with all those in favor Republicans. All 32 House Democrats and five Republicans voted against it.
By the same tally, the House voted Feb. 10 to approve HB161, but the bill then was sent to the House Appropriations Committee to review its financial impact. The panel sent the bill back to the House for another vote.
The debate Saturday was brief, with only Milburn and Rep. Diane Sands, D-Missoula, speaking, and they confined their remarks to a few sentences.
Milburn said the repeal bill has drawn interest from around the nation and all over the world.
He said he's been interviewed by a Swedish radio host who told him that Sweden is now advocating a drug-free society.
In a later interview, Milburn said later the radio host, who is a special adviser to the World Federation Against Drugs, told him it would be political suicide in Sweden if anyone there ran for office supporting legalization of medical marijuana.
Sands told the House that nearly two-thirds of Montana voters approved the initiative in 2004 to legalize medical marijuana. She said they voted to authorize the use of medical marijuana for a limited number of people.
"We all know that we have failed in our responsibilities as a Legislature to put appropriate sideboards and regulations around this industry," said Sands, who is sponsoring a bill on behalf of an interim legislative committee to put in a state licensing and regulatory system.
Milburn said afterward he's been getting a lot of positive reaction to the repeal bill from federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.
"I think now that we're taking it seriously, they are on board," he said.
Milburn said he's unsure of what the bill's chances are in the Senate.
"I think the chance of passing it over there look better than it was the first of the session," he said. "I think the past couple of months, we and they are seeing the problems. There's a lot of momentum building."
Republicans who voted against HB161 were Reps. Steve Gibson of Helena, Austin Knudsen of Culbertson, Mike Miller of Helmville, Jerry O'Neil of Columbia Falls and Sterling Small of Busby.
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