Hamilton judge begins hearing on governor’s vaping product ban
(KPAX) Montana Governor Steve Bullock announced a ban on flavored vaping products on Oct. 8, but a Ravalli District Court judge blocked that ban.
Now vape shop owners are looking to extend the block through an injunction, and the hearing started Wednesday in a Hamilton courtroom.
Vape shop owners are petitioning for an injunction, which would continue a court-ordered hold on the ban.
The state argues that this is only a response to a health emergency and any hold on the governor’s ban would do harm to the public, especially Montana’s underage vape users.
“We know that these rules are designed to protect the most vulnerable until federal authorities — who are racing to find a cause for these injuries — can know more,” said Ralph Graybill, chief legal counsel for the Office of the Governor. “We know that candy and other flavored vaping products are overwhelmingly popular with youth in the state of Montana.”
The petitioners need to prove three things for the injunction to be signed by Ravalli County District Court Judge Jennifer Lint.
First, that the continuance of the ban would produce irrefutable harm to the petitioners, a continuation would be in violation of the petitioner’s rights, and that the petitioners achieve prima facie showing, which means that they have enough evidence to prove their case and can show it during the hearing.
Vape shop owners think they can prove all three.
“Today the petitioners are going to provide this court with testimony and witnesses and evidence establishing all three of those elements, said Greg McDonnell, an attorney for the vape shop owners.
“Of course, in the half a day, with all this evidence and the 14 attorneys in this room, it’s probably not going to be possible to show an entire case,” he added. “But the petitioners don’t have to. They just have to show prima facie showing, which just on the surface is enough.”
The most contentious point on Wednesday was both sides trying to prove how underage kids were getting their hands on these products.
Petitioners say that their employees are highly trained in how to properly ID someone, and all four owners said that if their employees don’t properly ID, they could face dire consequences
“If they fail a compliance check, they all know that they are immediately fired … job over. They are walking out, it’s that serious to me,” said vape shop owner Lucas Anderson.
Despite vape shops’ efforts, a Missoula school resource officer says kids are still getting their hands on vaping products.
“These were kind of given to me from the other school resource officers at the other high schools. This was one from Hellgate High School,” Big Sky School Resource Officer Jeff Loyd said. “[It’s a] broad spectrum of just about everybody who is using them.”
Vape shop owners say the 120-day ban would put them out of business even before the ban was lifted and there’s research that could prove the exact cause of the vaping-related illness.
So far, one person in Montana has died due to vaping-related illness.
The hearing will resume Friday at 12 p.m. in a Ravalli County District courtroom.