HELENA — Montana’s professional pharmacists say they don’t want to get into the medical marijuana business, scuttling the suggestion that lawmakers could firm up Montana’s controversial pot scene by making pharmacists dispense the drug.
The Montana Pharmacy Association adopted a resolution at its June 5 meeting stating that professional pharmacists will not support dispensing cannabis until medical research proves the drug is effective and adequate dosing guidelines are established.
The resolution further stated there is currently no accepted medical use for marijuana, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and that marijuana is still considered an illegal drug by the federal government.
“As such, it is still against federal law for Montana pharmacies to dispense or even have marijuana in their stores,” said Tony King, a Missoula pharmacist and newly elected chairman of the Montana Pharmacy Association.
The association is the trade group and political action committee representing pharmacies, pharmacists and some pharmacy technicians.
Pharmacists are allowed to dispense only those drugs approved by the FDA, King said. FDA drug approval is a long process in which drug-makers must show scientific proof that their drug works to treat certain conditions. The same process establishes patient dosing recommendations.
Marijuana has not been through the FDA approval process, King said, and is considered illegal in all instances by federal law.
Pharmacists run afoul of federal law when they dispense any nonapproved drug, he said, to say nothing of selling outright illegal ones.
“We’d come under the scrutiny of the FDA and the (Drug Enforcement Agency) at that point,” he said. King said the untested nature of using pot for medicine raises other concerns.
“For lack of a better word, it’s a crapshoot,” he said.
Some 62 percent of voters in 2005 approved legalizing possession and use of small amounts of marijuana for medical purposes. Medical marijuana is dispensed by “caregivers” licensed by the state to Montanans with a doctor’s recommendation.
Use of medical marijuana in Montana exploded after the Obama administration announced last October it would not enforce federal drug laws on people using medical marijuana in accordance with the laws in their states.
Fourteen states, including Montana, have legalized medical marijuana.
More than 16,000 Montanans have so-called “green cards” allowing them to use medical marijuana. More than 2,500 people obtained their cards in May alone, according to the state Department of Public Health and Human Services, which administers Montana’s medical marijuana program.
Montana’s law has come under fire recently as pot businesses began sprouting up more visibly and violence related to medical marijuana erupted, most notably last month when two cannabis storefronts in Billings were firebombed.
Last month, state Sen. Dave Lewis, R-Helena, proposed drafting a law for the 2011 Legislature to put pharmacists in charge of selling the drug, among other things.
Lewis’ pharmacy plan seemed to draw support in some circles, as it has been repeated by other lawmakers and candidates as a possible solution.
But Lewis said Thursday he’s already abandoned the druggist-as-dope-seller idea.
“I talked to my own druggist,” he said. “And he said, ‘We just can’t do it.’”
Lewis now has a new plan, which he is still working on in anticipation of next January’s legislative session. The outline looks like this:
The state would own Montana’s medical marijuana and would contract out growing to one or more growers. In order to sell marijuana, caregivers would need a license from the state through a system modeled on Montana’s liquor license system. Caregivers would only get as much marijuana as their clients require.
The number of caregiver licenses would be limited and based on population and population growth, similar to Montana’s liquor licensing program.
However, caregivers would not have a property right in their medical marijuana license, meaning they couldn’t buy or sell them or borrow against them, as is the case with liquor licenses.
“Otherwise, you’d end up with the same thing we’ve got with liquor,” Lewis said, a system which he admits “has always driven me crazy.”
With the state controlling growing and selling, Lewis said, Montana could “plug the leaks” of medical marijuana and keep the current system from being abused.
Gazette State Bureau
Posted: Thursday, June 10, 2010
bluntshell added 2 Minutes and 47 Seconds later...
Montana gov. agrees change needed in marijuana law
HELENA, Mont. — Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer says legalization of medical marijuana has not worked out as voters planned, and agrees the state needs a legislative fix.
Schweitzer says he is watching proposals as they come forward and expects lawmakers, convening in January, will have a lot of options. The governor says one of his agencies may pitch its own plan.
Schweitzer says one part of the solution could be to require genetic branding of medical marijuana, which would allow police to trace illegal pot to see if it originated from a caregiver selling medical marijuana.
The medical marijuana law has become one of the hottest topics facing lawmakers as the state deals with an explosion in the number of patients, caregivers and growers.
By MATT GOURAS (AP)