HELENA, Mont. —The vandals struck in the middle of the night, hurling Molotov cocktails through the windows of two medical marijuana businesses and spray-painting "NOT IN OUR TOWN" just before the Billings City Council was supposed to take up a ban on any new pot shops.
Montana and other states that have legalized medical marijuana are seeing a backlash, with public anger rising and politicians passing laws to slow the proliferation of pot shops and bring order to what has become a wide-open, Wild West sort of industry.
They are looking to avoid what happened in California, which allowed the pot industry to grow so out of control that at one point Los Angeles had more medical marijuana shops than Starbucks — about 1,000 by one count.
"Yeah, it's out of control — and it needs control, if not extinction," Montana Sen. Jim Shockley said Friday. "There's no control over distribution. There's no control over who's growing it. There's no control in dosage."
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Fourteen states have legalized medical marijuana, beginning with California in 1996, and the District of Columbia followed suit this month. The laws allow chronically ill people to buy marijuana with permission from a doctor.
The Billings City Council approved a six-month moratorium on new medical marijuana businesses in May after the violence against pot businesses the previous two nights. On Thursday, the city of about 90,000 people ordered 25 of Billings' 81 pot businesses to shut down after discovering they were not properly registered with the state.