Consequences of Getting a Medical Card in Montana

  1. Montana Cannabis
  2. Montana Medical Marijuana Card
  3. Consequences of Having a MMJ Card in Montana

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Benefits of Having a Medical Marijuana Card in Montana

As a medical marijuana cardholder in Montana, you are entitled to certain benefits such as:

Legal Protection

Montana medical marijuana cards protect the holders from litigation for purchasing and possessing medical cannabis within approved limits. Per Section 16-12-515(2a) of the Montana Code, persons who possess Montana registry identification cards cannot be arrested, prosecuted, penalized, or denied any right solely because they cultivate, possess, or use medical marijuana. While Montana does not mandate medical cannabis patients carry their cards at all times, they must have their medical marijuana cards and state-issued identification cards when purchasing medical cannabis at dispensaries. Additionally, they should carry their cards whenever they are in possession of medical cannabis in public.

While recreational cannabis is legal in Montana, it is unlawful for persons 21 and older without Montana medical marijuana cards to possess cannabis. Recreational cannabis consumers possessing up to 2 ounces of cannabis commit civil infraction offenses, punishable with fines up to $300 and no jail time. Nonetheless, persons 21 and older arrested with over 2 ounces of marijuana commit a felony. The penalty for felony possession of marijuana is up to 5 years imprisonment and fines not exceeding $45,000.

Lower Prices

Medical cannabis products are more affordable in Montana than recreational marijuana products. The state charges a 20% marijuana excise tax on recreational marijuana sales, while medical marijuana purchases are only subject to a 4% excise tax. The difference in excise tax rates makes medical cannabis prices significantly lower than recreational cannabis.

Higher Purchase and/or Possession Limits

In Montana, medical marijuana patients have higher purchase, possession, and consumption limits compared to recreational cannabis consumers. Holders of Montana medical marijuana cards can legally purchase up to 5 ounces of cannabis products monthly. They are also permitted to possess up to 1 ounce of cannabis or its equivalent in concentrates and edibles per time. Recreational user's purchase and possession limits are restricted to 1 ounce of marijuana or its equivalent.

Higher Cultivation Limits

The Montana Department of Revenue permits marijuana cultivation for medical and recreational consumers. However, Montana medical marijuana cardholders have a higher cultivation limit than recreational consumers. Medical marijuana cardholders may grow up to 4 plants and 4 seedlings on private property. On the converse, recreational cannabis users may only cultivate up to 2 plants and 2 seedlings for personal use.

Access for Minors

Persons with qualifying medical conditions under the age of 18 may obtain Montana medical marijuana registration cards with the consent of their parents or legal guardians. Per Section 16-12-106 (5) of the Montana Code, it is unlawful for persons under 21 who is not a registered cardholder to possess marijuana.

Reciprocity

Holders of Montana medical marijuana cards can purchase medical marijuana from dispensaries or possess their medical cannabis products when out of state. Montana cardholders can access medical marijuana in Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oklahoma, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Utah, Washington D.C., and West Virginia.

Employment Protection

Per Section 39-2-313(2) of the Montana Code, an employer may not discriminate against an individual for their lawful consumption of marijuana off duty and during non-working hours. In addition, employers cannot refuse to hire or withhold compensation and promotions based on the individual's legal use of a lawful product, such as medical cannabis. However, employers may prohibit marijuana use if it affects their employees’ ability to perform their professional responsibilities or put the safety of others in jeopardy. In addition, employers do not have to accommodate employees’ medical marijuana use if it conflicts with an occupational qualification.

Montana medical marijuana cards will not appear during background checks. Medical marijuana cards form part of patients' personal health information. This information is confidential and is protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). HIPAA exists to prevent patients' medical information from being released, purposely or accidentally. Therefore, during background checks, patients, medical marijuana cards will not show up.

Downsides of Getting a Medical Marijuana Card in Montana

The following are the cons of obtaining Montana medical marijuana cards:

Firearm Prohibition

Medical marijuana cardholders in Montana are banned from possessing firearms. While the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution gives its citizens the right to bear arms, the Gun Control Act of 1968 prohibits marijuana consumers, including medical marijuana cardholders, from owning firearms. Montana defers to federal regulations on gun ownership and possession. Under federal law, marijuana is a Schedule I Controlled Substance drug and remains an illegal substance, regardless of the legality of medical cannabis in Montana. Therefore, Montana medical marijuana cardholders cannot lay claims to gun rights as provided in the Second Amendment.

Driving Restrictions

Although medical cannabis is legal in Montana, driving under the influence of a controlled substance, including medical marijuana, is illegal. Per Section 61-81-1002(d) of the Montana Code, it is an offense to operate a motor vehicle with 5ng/ml or more of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in the blood. In addition, Section 61-8-401(2).) of the state’s Code specifies that being entitled to use medical marijuana by law is not a defense for driving under the influence of a controlled substance. The penalties for operating a motor vehicle under the influence of cannabis in Montana include the following:

  • Jail time ranging from 24 hours to one year
  • Fines between $300 and $5,000
  • Completion of a chemical dependency treatment program
  • Driving restrictions

Commercial vehicle drivers are subject to federal regulations, including those made by the Department of Transport (DOT). The DOT, in 49 CFR Part 40 of its Drug and Alcohol Testing Regulation, explicitly prohibits medical marijuana use for commercial drivers, irrespective of whether it is legal under state laws. Therefore, Montana medical marijuana cardholders cannot apply for CDLs. Furthermore, holders of CDLs stand to lose their licenses when they become medical marijuana cardholders in Montana.

Annual Renewal

Montana medical marijuana cards are valid for one year. Cardholders must renew their cards annually to retain their spot in the Montana Medical Cannabis Program. Renewing their medical cards can be inconvenient and cost patients some dollars. Montana does not offer discounts or waivers on the renewal application fees. Cardholders must pay $20 every year to renew their medical marijuana cards. In addition, cardholders are required to see licensed Medical Doctors (MDs) or Doctors of Osteopathy (DO) to obtain recommendations for medical cannabis before applying to renew their medical cannabis cards. These consultations cost anywhere from $129 to $199 in Montana.

Cardholders can conduct follow-up appointments with licensed Montana physicians through telemedicine to alleviate the stress associated with renewing their cards. However, they must remember to start the marijuana card renewal process up to 30 days before the expiration of the cards to prevent losing the card benefits.

Federal Prohibitions

Montana medical marijuana cardholders cannot work for the federal government. While they may apply for federal jobs, federal laws specify that cannabis use remains unlawful without exceptions. Therefore, having a medical marijuana card disqualifies a person from taking up employment with the federal government. Federal law classifies marijuana as a controlled substance, and federal employees who carry Montana medical marihuana cards risk losing their appointments. Despite the legal status of medical cannabis in Montana, persons living in federally subsidized housing units in the state cannot cultivate or consume marijuana there. This, according to the Department of Housing (DOH), is because marijuana remains illegal at the federal level.

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