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Montana Supreme Court finds no constitutional right to medical marijuana use

The Montana Supreme Court [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Tuesday that there is no constitutional right to the cultivation, distribution and use of medical marijuana [JURIST news archive]. The plaintiffs in the case sought to prevent the enactment and enforcement of a 2011 law [SB 423, text] that repealed an earlier law permitting the use of marijuana for medical purposes in Montana. They claimed that the new law violated the fundamental rights of employment, health and privacy guaranteed by the Montana Constitution [text], but the justices did not agree. Ruling on the issue of a right to health, they said, "[i]n pursuing one's own health, an individual has a fundamental right to obtain and reject medical treatment. ... But, this right does not extend to give a patient a fundamental right to use any drug, regardless of its legality." In January a judge for the US District Court for the District of Montana [official website] ruled that the state's medical marijuana law does not protect providers [JURIST report] of the drug from federal prosecution.

US state and federal courts have been forced to interpret medical marijuana statutes in recent years. In January a judge for the US District Court for the District of Arizona [official website] granted an American Civil Liberties Union [advocacy website] motion to dismiss a lawsuit [JURIST report] challenging Arizona's voter approved medical marijuana law. In August 2011 a Michigan court of appeals ruled [JURIST report] that medical marijuana cannot be sold at private dispensaries. In January 2010 the California Supreme Court [official website] overturned [JURIST report] a 2003 law limiting the amount of marijuana that may be possessed under the state's Medical Marijuana Program.

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