Guest Post: Lessons I learned from Montana’s Medical Marijuana Movement


Written by: ScienceNerd

I have never been particularly politically active, but the de facto repeal of Montana’s Medical Marijuana Program by the 2011 legislature got me fired up.  Adding insult to injury was the defeat of I-124.  What events or attitudes on the part of supporters and those opposed led to the defeat of our MMJ program?  Why did a program with the initial support of 60%+ of the population of Montana go down so decisively?

We can all agree that it is a multi-faceted issue involving diverse attitudes and motivations.  We have the vested interest of the judicial and correctional systems and the prison industrial complex which derive income from the illegality of cannabis.  Then there’s the ignorance of legislators like Rep. David Howard, who contend that “Marijuana Kills!”, and rely on fear in order to stay in power.  We can’t neglect to mention the “Think of the Children” faction lead by the good Cherrie Brady and Church Ladies Inc.  The aspect I would like to focus on, however, is how we defeated ourselves.

At the height of the movement there were some 30,000 people in Montana with medical marijuana cards.  Thousands of cultivators and supportive businesses accommodated the cardholders.  In my view, it was the perfect example of the free market acting as it should.  Growers were in competition with each other to produce the best product at the lowest price, yet stay viable as a business.  You could see the results.  MMJ was available readily, and the price was cut in half from the black market price.  Businesses were popping up and thriving.  And yet, I heard members of the MMJ community talking about the “greed” of the growers.  These people apparently wanted access to marijuana, didn’t want to grow their own, but didn’t want the growers to make a good profit either.  So what if the growers might face life in prison for conducting their business.  In the eyes of these entitled individuals, that was no excuse for wanting to have a profitable business and not selling it dirt cheap. In my opinion, profitable small businesses contribute to affordability and quality of the product, and ensure a constant supply.  Yet members of the MMJ community were angered by those who sought to make a sustainable business with a profit.

When Patients For Reform Not Repeal was formed, I was amazed at what they were able to accomplish.  To obtain the number of signatures they gathered was a feat that should be admired by all of us, and gratitude should go out to those that made it happen.  And yet, even within that group, there was fighting and posturing.  The good of the cause was threatened by some who felt they weren’t appreciated enough or didn’t like how the organization was being run.  The same could be said of the MTCIA.  These people are solely responsible for the fact that those who cannot grow have access to their medicine now.   The service they have done to the community is HUGE.  And yet they are attacked on all sides by their alleged supporters.

One aspect of the MMJ movement that I was not at all prepared for was the resistance by many in the movement to modern medicine.  Some of the most vocal proponents were also vocal proponents of alternative medicine, and vocal opponents of modern medicine, doctors and medications.  I think the choice one makes when it comes to the philosophy of medicine one practices is a personal thing, and that all choices should be respected.  I, personally, use both alternative and modern medical approaches to health issues and decide which I think is appropriate for the particular issue.  But many in the MMJ movement came in fighting both FOR the use as marijuana as medicine and AGAINST modern medicine at the same time.  They wanted marijuana to be accepted as a medicine when it hadn’t undergone the rigorous testing and evaluations that other approved medicines have been subjected to.  In the next breath they denounced accepted medicines and medical research, and even discounted medical theories that have long been proven and accepted by the scientific community and general population.  I can’t list how many times I heard “Look at the science,” from people who didn’t believe in vaccines, antibiotics or cancer treatments.  I think this ruined much of the credibility for the movement in the portion of the populace that is not involved in the movement but that had formerly been in favor of medical marijuana.

The way medicine works in America today is that drugs go through a rigorous process to be approved to be used as prescribed medicine.  Usually cell studies are followed by studies in animals that are followed by studies in humans.  It is estimated that it takes at least $1.3 billion and an average of 12 years to bring a new drug to market.  Much of this money is spent figuring out exactly what diseases and conditions the drug works on and what the effective doses are.  Routes of administration are investigated and the most efficient ways determined.  The fact is that not enough of these studies have been done yet with MMJ.  There are a lot of promising pilot studies, but the details have not been worked out.  Legalization of MMJ has helped a lot, but not enough time has passed to do all that needs to be done.  The only way marijuana will enter mainstream medicine will be via the approach of the makers of Marinol and Sativex .  They have spent billions of dollars to do the studies with the purified components that they can deliver in a constant dose each and every time.   In my opinion, this will never be done with the whole plant product because it is too variable, too expensive and too scientifically difficult. Smoking as a delivery route is problematic in the medical community because there is probable harm associated with it.  While I am quite sure that marijuana has medicinal properties, the extent of the properties and the appropriate dosages are still being determined.

I think that the way to get marijuana into our society in a mainstream way is not to fight modern medicine and Big Pharma, but to fight for the basic rights we have as American citizens to do what we want with our bodies as long as it hurts no one else.  We need to fight for full-out legalization.  We deserve to have the choice of marijuana as both a medical and a recreational substance.  Legal marijuana will benefit not just those who use it medicinally, but the millions of us who just plain like to relax with it too. And if we are to win this fight, we need to do it selflessly and without the need for gratitude.  Let’s do it for ourselves!

 

Repealing the “Black Market” Bill: A Preliminary Guide to Process and Procedure


Confused about the status of SB 423, Senator Jeff Essmann’s bill to eliminate safe access to medical cannabis in Montana? The following provides background into Montana’s initiative, referendum, and repeal process.

SB 423 Monitoring: Montana Marijuana Act Initiative Referendum to Overturn Law Prepared for the Children, Families, Health, and Human Services Interim Committee

Background

Within days after the 2011 legislative session ended, opponents of a bill that repeals Montana’s Medical Marijuana Act and replaces it with new provisions announced that they would try to place the new law before the voters in November 2012. The effort centers on a little-used practice in which Montanans may try to gather enough signatures from registered voters to place a law enacted by the Legislature on the ballot. If they succeed, voters then decide whether to retain or reject the law. At issue in this case is Senate Bill 423, which replaces the existing Medical Marijuana Act with more stringent provisions for individuals who use marijuana for debilitating medical conditions, the physicians who provide written certifications involving such use, and the individuals who grow or manufacture marijuana and related products. The Montana Cannabis Industry Association (Association) is sponsoring the proposal. The group hopes to gather enough signatures to not only place the law on the ballot, but also to suspend its implementation until the November 2012 election. How the Process Works The Montana Constitution allows for both an initiative process and a referendum process. Most voters tend to think of an initiative as an idea generated by a private group, which then gathers signatures to place the proposed law on the ballot. For example, three initiatives qualified for the November 2010 ballot — one to reduce interest rates charged by so-called “pay-day lenders”, another to prevent the imposition of a real estate transfer tax, and a third to change how some hunting licenses are granted. On the other hand, voters tend to think of referendums as a law that the Legislature passes but puts before the voters before it goes into effect, to make sure voters agree with the law. But the Montana Constitution also allows for a process in which voters may place an act of the Legislature on the ballot as a referendum if interested parties submit a petition that is signed by at least 5% of the registered voters in at least 34 House districts and by 5% of the voters statewide. The total number required is based on the number of votes cast for governor statewide and by House district in 2008. The proposal must go through the review process required for all ballot measures, including:                                                                                                                                   • submission of the proposed ballot statements and text to the Secretary of State;                • review of the ballot statements and text by the Legislative Services Division;                      • rejection, acceptance, or modification of the Legislative Services Division recommendations by the sponsor;                                                                                          • the sponsor’s submission the final ballot statements and text to the Secretary of State;    • review of the proposed ballot language by the Attorney General’s Office, including an opportunity for public comment; and                                                                                       • final issuance of the petition by the Secretary of State after the Attorney General’s Office has completed its review and found that the petition is “legally sufficient”. After those steps are completed, the sponsor may begin collecting signatures. An act referred to the ballot through the initiative process remains in effect until the election is held unless enough signatures are obtained to suspend it. That would occur if the Secretary of State certifies that at least 15% of the registered voters in each of at least 51 House districts signed the petition.

Timeline for the SB 423 Petition

The Secretary of State accepted the petition from the Association on May 12, starting the clock ticking on the various timelines for review.

. To date, the following events have occurred:

• May 26: The Legislative Services Division completed its review of the ballot statements and text and provided the sponsor with suggested changes.                                                 • May 31: The sponsor responded to the Legislative Services Division comments.               • June 1: The sponsor submitted the revised ballot statements and text to the Secretary of State.                                                                                                                                        • June 2: The Attorney General’s Office received the ballot language and text for review.    • June 6: The Attorney General’s Office asked the Governor’s Office of Budget and Program Planning to estimate the fiscal impact of SB 423. The Budget Office has 10 days to prepare a fiscal note. The Attorney General’s Office must complete its review by July 5. If it approves the proposal, the proposed ballot issue will be returned to the Secretary of State. That office will then provide the approved petition to the sponsor, who may begin gathering signatures at that time. Signed petitions may be submitted to county election officials until September 30. The county officials must certify the signatures and file the signed petitions and certified totals with the Secretary of State no later than October 28. If enough verified signatures have been gathered, the Secretary of State will certify to the Governor that the initiative referendum will appear on the November 2012 ballot and/or has been suspended. Petition sponsors must gather and submit 24,337 verified signatures, including signatures representing 5% of the registered voters in each of at least 34 House districts, to place the measure on the ballot. If they meet that threshold, they may then attempt to gather additional signatures to suspend the law until the November 2012 vote. Anywhere from 31,238 to 43,247 signatures are needed to suspend the law, depending on the House districts in which the signatures are gathered. If sponsors meet the requirements for either step sooner than Sept. 30 and enough verified signatures are on file with the Secretary of State’s Office before October 28, the measure could be certified for the ballot or be suspended before those deadlines occur.

To read legal filings thus far, click here.

To donate to this endeavor, visit the MTCIA‘s website.  Funding is critical as our legal dream team isn’t cheap.

Become the change you want to see: Sign up to help here.  Whether you are interested in being a county or house district captain, a signature gatherer, a notary, even if you simply would like to sign the petition, we would appreciate your help.  Our board, zone coordinators and committees are donating their already scarce  time and could use assistance.

I’m coordinating the Eastern Zone and personally need some help in the following countes:  Valley, Carter, Powder River, Prairie, Dawson, Garfield, McCone, Petroleum, Phillips, Fallon and Carbon.  Also in House Districts: 30,32,35,38,39, and 41. Please contact me ASAP if you can assist.  

A Montana Medical Cannabis Patient’s Introductory Guide to the Black Market


Montana is, as of June 1, 2011; issuing medical marijuana patient cards and renewals under emergency rules written by the DPHHS until July 1 when new regulations under SB 423 take effect. A troubling muddle of statements, clarifications, and retractions, Montana’s medical cannabis program is as confusing as ever and patients are looking for answers. Barring successful legal intervention prior to the new law’s inception, all patients will lose their current caregiver.  The patients who aren’t currently growing cannabis (I-148 allowed patients to grow their own in addition to selecting a caregiver to grow 6 plants on the patient’s behalf) will be forced to suffer needlessly until they either locate a altruistic nanny-approved grower (growers cannot be paid, all product is free) approved by the state or successfully complete the growth cycle of the plant (up to 6 months).

As transparency in the cannabis trade ends, illegal drug dealers across the state are expected to benefit from the new regulations. They are silently celebrating, raising prices, and preparing to retrieve the market share previously lost to the state’s legal medical cannabis industry. Many patients will inevitably turn to this segment of the population out of desperation and necessity.  Some already have after federal agencies began raiding Montana caregivers March 14, 2011. Stoners often find that locating a reliable and trustworthy black market purveyor of illegal substances is challenging so imagine the difficulty for Montana’s average stage IV elderly cancer patient.  Doing business with someone who operates in the illicit underworld presents many challenges which inspire me to offer the advice listed below. Note: Authorities in Montana have most likely provided confidential patient records/information to federal agencies.  At the very least, the state has failed to protect patients when federal agents have seized such records.  The federal government has been very inconsistent regarding marijuana policy and fewer patients are willing to expose themselves to the increased risk involved with becoming a cardholder. 

  • Contribute to MTCIA.  Hopefully someday, as a result of the group’s work, you won’t be forced to conduct clandestine transactions in dark alleys.  Considering you are suffering from a debilitating disease, you may be dead by that time, unfortunately.
  • Be discrete. If you absolutely must use the telephone, always operate on the assumption that it is tapped.  Don’t text or leave incriminating voice mail messages and don’t save the dealer’s number in your phone as “weed boy”.  If you must include “weed boy” in your contact list, consider using a legislator’s phone number for that contact.
  • Be polite.  Don’t complain about the price, you aren’t buying a used car. Blame prohibition, Montana’s 62nd legislature, or specifically, Senator Jeff Essmann for inflated prices.  Don’t be demanding.  Although Montana’s marijuana dealers aren’t typically murderous thugs, there are always exceptions and it is in your best interest to be friendly.
  •  Transactions require cash unless alternate arrangements have been made. Have exact change. No money back guarantees, no returns.  Trading for sex isn’t typical in the marijuana world, contrary to the testimony of Montana’s legislators.  When you prostitute yourself for cannabis, you are simply a slut.  Period.
  •  If you find a prompt, accommodating dealer who provides a good quality product at an acceptable price, consider yourself fortunate.  Tipping isn’t customary nor is it expected although it could definitely contribute to a copacetic (for some reason many dealers use that word) relationship with your new friend.
  • Lower your expectations.  Your experience will be nothing like a visit to your old dispensary.  Your dealer will probably not be punctual, so be patient. You will have fewer, if any; strain choices.
  • You may want to invest in a digital scale.  Ideally, the dealer will weigh the quantity in your presence, but if nothing else, weigh it when you get home.
  • If you are desperate, one-time transaction drug dealers can be located at jam band (Widespread Panic, The Allman Brothers, etc) shows and festivals.  Vendors often sell delicious medibles (cannabis cheesecake, anyone?) in addition to medicine and cool stoner accessories.  Arrive early (and I’m talking HOURS early) to hang out on the lot prior to the event.  Listen for  the words “nuggets”, “kind bud” , “phatty nugs”, “headies”, etc.  This may be difficult if you are elderly or disabled due to your disease.  Perhaps you could ask a legislator to assist, if this is the case.
  • Although possession of larger quantities carries the risk of higher penalties, the fewer transactions you have with a dealer, the better. Except in cases like this.  Often the price is significantly lower in bulk as well.  Montana’s cartel members who have amassed a surplus choose to bury it in a van in their backyard.
  • Don’t deal with anyone under 18.  Ever. No matter what he/she is willing to do for just a taste of your medicine.

This is by no means a comprehensive or exhaustive list and should not be considered an endorsement of illegal activity. 


Montana Raided Again by Obama’s Anti-Cannabis Thugs, Schweitzer and Bullock Silent


The federal government once again has invaded our state to enforce the  unconstitutional Controlled Substances Act, perpetrating a raid on Sleeping Giant Caregivers in Helena today.  Notably but not surprisingly, Governor Schweitzer and Attorney General (Gubernatorial hopeful) Steve Bullock have again remained silent, caring more about saving their political future than defending Montana’s ill.  Federal intervention is apparently acceptable to them, as long as it only hurts one of their  non-crucial voting blocs.

A search and seizure warrant signed Thursday by U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah Lynch of Missoula authorized federal agents to seize items that are “evidence of the commission of drug trafficking offenses,” including marijuana and hashish, weapons, transaction records and other documents and paraphernalia as well as up to 1.2 million dollars in the business’s account at Mountain West Bank.  Naturally, the case has been sealed, no other details are known.  Let me guess, the government will destroy the plants, keep the money and continue on to the next assault on America’s freedoms.

View News 5′s exclusive video here.

Watch the following clip, anyone recall Obama’s stance pre-election?  How do all of you pro-cannabis democrats like your “badass” President now? He’s on track thus far to FAR surpass the number of Bush administration raids which numbered just over 200 in 8 years.  The Obama administration has raided well over 100 facilities already with almost almost 2 years left in his first term. So much for those campaign promises. So much for that Ogden memo.

Across the nation, the federal government continues its attempts to intimidate elected officials in hopes of influencing state policy.  I wonder why it even tries considering laws made by states obviously matter very little to this gangster government.  Remember the last series of raids in Montana?  They occurred shortly before a hearing on HB 161 on March 14.  According to the public record (although it wasn’t correct), a hearing was scheduled for 1:30pm in Lewis & Clark County regarding MTCIA’s injunction against SB 423.  Today’s raid occurred just prior to 1:30pm.  I’m sure these are just coincidences though.

Regardless of your stance on medical marijuana, this concerns all Montanans and all Americans as all of our rights are at risk. Call Governor Brian Schweitzer at 406.444.3111 and Attorney General Steve Bullock at 444.2026 today to ask them to condemn the federal intervention and assault on freedom.   Governor Schweitzer has no problem standing up to the federal government when wolves are concerned, ask him why he’s been completely silent about protecting Montana’s ill.  Steve Bullock wants to be your next governor, I suggest you focus your attention on him.  Montana needs a governor who isn’t afraid to do the right thing.  If Bullock ignores the Montanans who are unable to help themselves now, how will he treat them AFTER he has their vote?

This guy wants to govern Montana. He won't defend ill Montanans who use medical cannabis, what makes you think he will defend you?

If you care about your rights and are able to attend,  I will see you tomorrow night in Billings- not at the Yellowstone County Republican Lincoln Reagan dinner, but at a fundraising and networking event held by the MTCIA.  Event details can be found here.