Members of the Montana Supreme Court ruled 6 to 1 on Tuesday that patients do not possess a fundamental right to access and consume cannabis for therapeutic purposes. The decision reverses a District Court ruling enjoining the state from enforcing various provisions of a 2011 state law that limits the public’s access to medical marijuana.
“In pursuing one’s health, an individual has a fundamental right to obtain and reject medical treatment,” Justice Michael Wheat opined for the majority. “But, this right does not extend to give a patient a fundamental right to use any drug, regardless of its legality.”
He added, “A patient’s ‘selection of a particular treatment, or at least a medication, is within the area of government interest in protecting public health,’ and regulation of that medication does not implicate a fundamental constitutional right.”
The Court further opined that a patient’s “right to privacy does not encompass the affirmative right of access to medical marijuana.”
The majority concluded, “[T]he plaintiffs cannot seriously contend that they have a fundamental right to medical marijuana when it is still unequivocally illegal under the (federal) Controlled Substances Act.”
The Court’s decision allows for the state to fully implement Senate Bill 423, a 2011 law that sought to significantly limit the use, production, and distribution of cannabis among patients who possess a physician’s authorization to consume it.
Montana voters will decide in November on Initiative Referendum 124, which seeks to repeal SB 423. Montana voters in 2004 approved patients’ use of medical cannabis for qualified illnesses by a vote of 62 percent.
Full text of the decision, Montana Cannabis Industry Association et al. v State is available online here.
NORML has additional details about this November’s statewide and municipal ballot initiative at our Smoke the Vote page here.