Another Medical Marijuana Dispensary Sues Billings, Montana

Another medical marijuana dispensary sues Billings, Montana over the city’s attempt to push out businesses.

The owner of a medical marijuana dispensary, Montana Organic Medical Supply, which has been licensed and been operation since 2011, has been issued a code violation and asked to cease doing business after the city refused to renew his license. Shawn Palmer stated his doors have been opened and fully operating with a license that has been renewed annually for the past 6 years. But why is the city refusing him now?

Palmer’s dispensary only facilitates the needs of registered medical marijuana patients. He stated that his establishment is a $100,000 investment.

“I wanted to have a shop that was for the client and was private and secure. No children, no public exposure to my cannabis shop.”
Montana Organic Medical Supply

Palmer has filed a lawsuit against the city on behalf of his business and three of his patrons.

Palmer has filed a lawsuit against the city on behalf of his business and three of his patrons, petitioning for an order from the court authorizing him to continue his business and supply his customers. He is the second medical marijuana dispensary owner to take this stand against the city. In comparison to the first business, Palmer followed the correct procedure of renewing the license he had been issued years ago and was denied.

The three patrons that are included in the lawsuit, rely heavily on Montana Organic Medical Supply for their medical marijuana provision and if it closed its doors permanently they would be severely affected. These persons are unable to travel on their own and rely on others to assist. Laurie Parker, a plaintiff involved in the lawsuit, had 10 surgeries because of cancer. Her prescribed medical marijuana allows her to be mobile enough to work.

“The people that need it the most are the ones who are going to be the most affected by this.”
City Hall in Billings

The city of Billings enforces new codes on medical marijuana businesses.

The city of Billings has issued a de facto ban on all businesses registered on or before 2012. It states that all business licensees must be in accordance with state and federal law. So, a business handling medical marijuana, which is illegal under federal law, should not have received a license or renewal. The two dispensaries, Montana Advanced Caregivers, and Montana Organic Medical Supply would have received their licenses before the ban was passed.  They received their initial business licenses before the city passed the de facto dispensary ban.

Billings officials revisited the marijuana regulation after the 2017 Montana Legislature allowing cities to prohibit dispensaries, which are open only to registered cardholders. Initially, the local law enforcement was limited to regulating only stores opened to the general population.

Gina Dahl, Assistant City Attorney stated that the license renewals are issued quicker than an original application, in addition, the renewal form stated that the business should follow all laws, including federal drug laws.

“Those renewal forms specifically tell business that it’s their duty to make any changes.”

Last year the city council received a memo from Dahl stating that the city was not granting licenses to medical marijuana businesses, therefore it can only be seen that the city of Billings is not knowledgeable about the dispensaries it issued licenses to.

The same memo clearly acknowledged that the city code allowing medical marijuana dispensaries is in discord with the city code on business licensees obeying federal laws.

Until the lawsuits have been settled, law enforcement has been placed on hold.