Medical Marijuana is Not a Right, Montana Supreme Court Rules

By Andrew Lu on September 14, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

So much for the Big High in Big Sky country. The Montana Supreme Court ruled that the use of medical marijuana is not a right.

The court found that just because individuals have the freedom to make medical decisions over their own bodies, this does not give them the right to use illegal drugs.

The Montana Supreme Court sent the case back down to the lower court to determine if a state law blocking the use of medicinal marijuana is legal, reports The Wall Street Journal.

The issue of whether smoking medical marijuana is a right is important as previously the lower court used "strict scrutiny" to determine whether the state law was legal. With strict scrutiny, the state had to prove that a compelling state interest justified the law. Strict scrutiny is the most difficult test and can be difficult for the state to prove.

However, by finding that smoking marijuana is not a right, the Montana Supreme Court said that the lower court used the wrong standard. Instead of the strict scrutiny standard, the high court said that the "rational basis" test should have been used. The rational basis review is the lowest level of scrutiny that a court will use and only requires that the law be rationally related to a legitimate state interest. So you don't need a "compelling" state interest.

Given the lower level test, the Montana state government now has a much better shot at proving that its medical marijuana law should be enforced.

Of course, advocates of medicinal marijuana don't seem fazed saying, they don't see "how any rational court could find this law rational," reports The Wall Street Journal.

In the meantime, medical marijuana supporters have received enough signatures to put the 2011 Montana law on the November 2012 ballot as a referendum, reports the Journal. The voters could repeal the law even though a court could not.

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