Dec. 4 Montana News Briefs


Medical marijuana providers, patients oppose new regulations

BUTTE (AP) — Medical marijuana providers and patients in Montana say proposed regulatory actions would place considerable cost and time burdens on them.

The Montana Standard reports the stakeholders voiced opposition to the set of proposed rules during a hearing Thursday at the state Department of Public Health and Human Services.

Under the department rules, dispensaries would be required to test marijuana products for heavy metals, pesticides and other items. The rules would also set licensing fees at $1,000 for providers with 10 or fewer patients and $5,000 for providers with more than 10.

The rules were made public earlier this month and are in response to legislation passed earlier this year. The state law requires the department to implement rules on testing, licensing, tracking and limiting marijuana and its providers.


Researchers say national park fee hike could cost Montana

MISSOULA (AP) — University of Montana researchers say the U.S. Department of Interior’s proposal to more than double the cost of the seven-day pass for national parks could cause economic harm to neighboring communities.

The Missoulian reports that economists at the university’s Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research say the fee increase would decrease annual spending by $3.4 million in the surrounding communities within 60 miles (100 kilometers) of Yellowstone National Park.

Institute director Jeremy Sage says the effects found from their research on Yellowstone would likely carry over to other parks and communities. He says other proposed fee increases should be expected to “reduce visits and thus have a negative impact on local communities.”

The institute has not yet calculated the potential loss amount for the communities around Glacier National Park.


Daines backs tax bill after cuts for small businesses

HELENA (AP) — U.S. Sen. Steve Daines is now supporting the $1.4 trillion tax bill because it contains additional tax cuts he says will help small businesses.

The Montana Republican said Monday that he opposed the tax bill as it was then written, complaining that it favored large corporations over small businesses.

On Friday he said the current version of the bill provides “significant tax relief” for “Main Street businesses”, which he says are responsible for nearly 70 percent of the jobs in the state.

The majority of owners of U.S. businesses, both large and small, report their profits on their individual tax returns. Daines was able to secure an increase in the deduction for business income from 17.4 percent to 20 percent Wednesday. GOP leaders later offered to boost it to 23 percent.


Ex-Postal worker sentenced in compensation fraud case

GREAT FALLS (AP) — A former U.S. Postal Service worker has been sentenced to 15 months in prison and ordered to pay more than $900,000 in restitution for fraudulently obtaining workers’ compensation benefits.

U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme in Great Falls announced Friday that 55-year-old Deborah Durand of Fruitland, Idaho, was convicted of four fraud counts. U.S. District Court Judge Brian Morris presided over trial.

Prosecutors said Durand failed to return to work after recovering from an on-the-job back injury. Instead, she claimed total disability and received more than $660,000 in workers’ compensation claims.

They said Duran went on a three-day ocean kayaking trip and was seen jogging and riding horses while claiming she was “totally sedentary” and could not work.


Authorities say 2 held on 

suspicion of Billings slaying

BILLINGS (AP) — Billings police say two men in custody are under investigation in the killing of a man whose decapitated body was found at an abandoned transient camp.

The Billings Gazette reports that 31-year-old Donald Ray Cherry and 33-year-old Jeffrey Glen Haverty were being held at Yellowstone County Detention Facility.

Police declined further comment, pending a Monday court appearance for the two men.

The body of 41-year-old Myron Wesley Knight was found Nov. 15.

Deputy County Coroner Cliff Mahoney said Knight had been decapitated and suffered multiple blunt force trauma injuries.


Yellowstone superintendent to receive honorary degree at MSU

BOZEMAN (AP) — Yellowstone National Park’s superintendent is set to receive an honorary doctorate degree in letters from Montana State University.

Dan Wenk, who has been the park’s superintendent since 2011, manages more than 2.2 million acres (0.9 million hectares), millions of visitors and a staff of about 800.

MSU says he supports land-grant universities and has deepened the relationship between Yellowstone’s research unit and faculty and students. University president Waded Cruzado says Wenk “has reinforced the long-standing ties between Yellowstone National Park and our university, strengthening MSU’s status as the ‘University of the Yellowstone.’”

Wenk, who has worked for the National Park Service for 42 years, will receive the degree during MSU’s fall commencement on Dec. 16.