HAMILTON - The city of Hamilton business license for the town's first medical marijuana shop ran Amanda Davis and Kyle McCready $20.
When Davis and McCready open their door to the public Wednesday, the products offered at their MD Farmacy storefront will run card-holding medical marijuana patients roughly $280 to $480 per ounce of marijuana and $5 to $10 per baked good.
Davis said getting ready to open has been hectic.
"It's been pretty stressy, but we have fun," she said. "It's going to be a blast: We're going to help a lot of people and hopefully the community, too."
MD Farmacy is the first licensed medical marijuana dispensary in Ravalli County.
"Take a picture of that, that's the first one ever," McCready said, pointing to MD Farmacy's business license. "That'll be worth some money in a hundred years."
While the Hamilton business is a first for the Bitterroot Valley, it is hardly a pioneering effort for Montana.
With a 2004 voter-approved medical marijuana law on the books allowing Montana caregivers to grow six marijuana plants per card-holding patient, and a recent federal law enforcement directive not to go after legal growers, the dispensary concept has taken root in Montana in recent months.
Missoula has no fewer than six licensed dispensaries.
The idea is for medical marijuana patients to link themselves to a caregiver/grower under a dispensary's management. Since there is no limit on the number of patients a caregiver can grow for, dispensaries can pool resources to offer an expanded menu of products.
MD Farmacy will have marijuana buds and hash for smoking, edibles and cooking oils for those who prefer to eat their medicine, and a product called "honey oil."
McCready said honey oil is 100 percent tetrahydracannabinol, or THC, the hallucinogenic compound that gets marijuana users high.
McCready and Davis, who grew up together in Darby, said they will only employ local caregivers.
"It's definitely locally owned and locally grown," McCready said.
Although Hamilton Mayor Jerry Steele said the city had only approved one such business so far, another looks imminent.
Like MD Farmacy, Missoula Cannabis Caregivers has also put up medical marijuana signage at a First Street location, this one exactly one block east of Hamilton City Hall. Missoula Cannabis Caregivers could not be reached for comment.
Steele said he hadn't seen the company's application, but said the city would give it a thorough review to see that it meets zoning restrictions.
"We don't want it near a school or a church or in a residential area," Steele said.
Acknowledging that the up-and-coming and apparently legal practice puts the city in a tough position, Steele said City Attorney Ken Bell was planning to recommend that the Hamilton City Council place a temporary moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries so it could get a better handle on how to deal with them.
The city of Lewistown placed a six-month moratorium on opening any new medical marijuana businesses, the Associated Press reported Tuesday, while city officials there decide how to regulate the businesses within the city limits.
Lewistown has one medical marijuana dispensary that opened at the beginning of the year, and that business will be allowed to stay open.
Billings, Whitefish and Great Falls are among the cities that have placed moratorium on medical marijuana businesses while they decide zoning issues.
Calling the state's medical marijuana policy "half cocked," Steele said it was only a matter of time until the presence of dispensaries would create problems.
"The state has this law, but the cities are out there floundering," he said. "Then all of a sudden we get challenged in court. Don't get me wrong, I'm not opposed to anybody making a living. But we have to be thinking about what kind of trouble we're going to be having here."
Steele said once they are licensed the city couldn't really do much about the businesses because they are legal in Montana.
The police would only be involved to the point of ensuring that they were following the law, he added.
Whatever the reaction at a government level, Davis said her family and friends have been nothing but supportive of her new venture.
Davis, who is pursuing an associate degree in business and marketing and floated the dispensary plan as a school project, said she had only gotten one negative response and that came from a fellow business student at the University of Montana's College of Technology in Missoula.
"That was it," she said. "My adviser really supported the idea."
Both she and McCready said the driving philosophy behind their business is to make medical marijuana available to those who want an alternative to traditional drugs.
Those who don't have a medical marijuana card will be pointed in the direction of a doctor who can prescribe one for them, McCready said.
"We're pretty much here to help them find a safe and easy way to get medical marijuana," added Davis.
By SEPP JANNOTTA
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