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!

 

Another Hard Knock for Rep James Knox


Representative James Knox used his website http://www.citizentruth.com (it has since been removed but check out this link about it) to degrade city firefighters.  Here is a screenshot of his Facebook account where he clumsily attempts to promote his “very cool website for Montana”.  He’s so sly! Knox, well known for his attention to grammar confuses us by using the word “sean”.  It doesn’t seem to be someone’s name, as it is not capitalized, so we can only assume that Knox made a spelling error.  I’m not especially nit picky about small details but if our legislators aren’t smart enough to even utilize spell check (especially when the one in question owns a computer business) I’m afraid there is something terribly wrong.  Anyway, I digress……

Knox promotes his website, citizen truth, to mock firefighters

According to a report released by the city of Billings yesterday, Knox’s ongoing and one-sided feud with the firefighters didn’t end with his cool new website.  It appears that he was not only commenting on the Billings Gazette online forums under various online identities, he also caused a serious altercation between the Fire Chief and several retired and active duty firefighters while they were eating at a local restaurant.  Here is the story:

Retired firefighters Don Regnier, Phil Phillippi and Ed Newlin and active firefighters Mike Martin and Ron Martin (no relation) were having their weekly breakfast on Dec. 7 at the Alpine Casino on 16th Street West.  A firefighter made a reference to a comment left online in discussion (shown below) of a Billings Gazette article about the firefighters by “taxed2crabbiness” who they suspected was actually Rep. James Knox who was seated at the next table- also eating I presume.

Grammatical errors, Knox? Really?

Never one to shy away from the limelight, Knox was certain to not only send the Billings Fire Chief Dextras a text message, but to also call him immediately thereafter to tattle to inform him that his firefighters were conspiring to sabotage the brakes on Quick Response Units as well as planning to put additives in the water.  He told Chief  Dextras “You better get over here“.  Within minutes, Dextras arrived in uniform.  He approached the table of firefighters, red-faced and fuming angry, according to the firefighters.  Oddly, however; Knox claims the chief was very calm.  From the Billings Gazette:

“He was angry as hell. He was very angry,” Regnier said.

“The man had fire in his eyes. Three-quarters of the way through it he still called me a liar.”

Mike Martin, one of the active firefighters and a union leader, said the incident was very tense. He said the firefighters would never do anything to damage city equipment or put the public in danger.

“It was so confrontational that I didn’t know if I was going to have to jump up and fight or what,” Martin said.

An investigator was called in from Helena by the city of Billings.  He found that Dextras inappropriately disrupted a meeting of private citizens after assuming wrongly that the firefighters were already guilty based solely on Knox’s phone call. He found no evidence that the firefighters were actually planning to sabotage the trucks.  The city redacted Knox’s name from the investigation documents although Knox gave permission to use his name.  That doesn’t surprise me a bit for some reason.  Knox says, “it was pretty evident what they were saying.” Apparently only to Knox.

This is yet another chapter in the continuing drama surrounding Knox.  Rep. James Knox was fortunate enough to ride the tea party wave into office last November, but constant mistakes, malicious attacks, and refusal to acknowledge the needs of his constituents will no doubt combine to ensure he is a ONE-TERM legislator.  It is unfortunate for Knox who suffered a heart attack shortly after the 2011 legislative session began and likely needs his $733/mo health insurance compliments of we the people, but fortunate for Montana.

See below for some highlights of Knox’s first and last legislative session.


Follow the MONEY:The Truth Behind “Safe Community, Safe Kids”


Do as I say, not as I do!!

Brother Steve Zabawa, LDS faithful (Montaliban/GOP God Squad member) car dealership owner, isn’t known for his integrity.  When Zabawa faced dire economic circumstances, Tony Woolery stepped in to save the auto group from financial ruin.  Woolery, Rimrock Auto Group’s general manager obtains cannabis on behalf of his wife Melanie, who suffers from terminal bone cancer.  To show his sincere gratitude, Zabawa began a campaign to repeal Montana’s medical cannabis law entirely.  Recently, he went so far as to suggest that after it is no longer legal to grow one’s own cannabis, surely some good people in the black market will step up to assist terminal patients by risking their freedom to provide illegal marijuana to them in dark alleys.  Apparently Zabawa hasn’t ever witnessed a friend or relative dying from a horribly painful illness.  May God have mercy on his soul.

Although Safe Community, Safe Kids at first glance appears to be a group composed of vast numbers of soccer mommies and nanny-state advocating citizens, nobody other than Zabawa is willing to put their money where their mouth is. According to financial reports it appears the only person financing the quest to save our communities and kids from the medical use of cannabis is Steve Zabawa.

Financial filings with the Office of Political Practices were due March 15 for all political action committees, yet Safe Community Safe Kids failed to file a timely report.  According to NBC Montana,  there were several fishy stories offered by the group when questioned about their failure to file.

NBC Montana contacted Safe Community Safe Kids to ask for financial reports. The group denied having spent any money on the ads; “nothing, not a dime!.” When confronted with a station ad placement for $816.00, spokeswoman Cherrie Brady claimed the expense was far less than the $5,000 threshold for having to file a report.

After being contacted by Jennifer Hensley, Montana’s political practices commissioner, Cherrie Brady filed a tardy report last night.  The report indicated that expenditures exceeded $15,000, well in excess of the $5,000 threshold cited by Brady.   In the interest of keeping a community safe, one would suspect the list of donors would be massive, but not in this case.  You see, Steve Zabawa, owner of Rimrock Auto Group and Mercedes Benz auto dealerships in Billings was the SOLE donor listed in the filings.  Whether he is actually the the lone financial driving force behind the group or the group is lying, is at this time unclear.  The group has a prominently displayed “DONATE” button on their website, so the absence of any other donors is highly suspicious.  Safe Community, Safe Kids co-founder Susan Smith’s husband Cary Smith is an elected state house representative from Billings, so campaign filings are nothing new to her.  Claiming ignorance of our state’s political practices statutes cannot possibly be excused for Mrs Smith.  UPDATE: Jennifer Hensley has decided against imposing penalties on the group, which promised to file timely reports in the future.

To search for campaign filings for any political action committee (PAC), go to Montana’s Office of Political Practices website.  Select “Committee Report Search” .  In the past, I’ve searched for the Safe Community, Safe Kids financial filings and have only found expenditures and in kind donations from the group’s founders, all actual donors were notably absent on their C6 forms filed quarterly.

In a montanafesto post last week, we exposed Zabawa and Rep James Knox as hypocrites after  documents surfaced tying both of them to attempts to glean exorbitant profits from a medical marijuana entrepreneur.   The  Billings Gazette Monday featured the expose’ in an article titled “Profits and principles mixed in medical marijuana debate”.   Here is a pdf file of Zabawa’s lease contract with Mark Higgins.

419 Daniels St LOI

Perhaps instead of allowing Zabawa, a businessman rumored to have ties to the mafia, to “protect”  us from the medical use of cannabis, we should focus on protecting our community and our kids from shady characters like Steve Zabawa.  His dealerships are plagued with lawsuits from former employees and customers alleging misconduct ranging from failure to honor contractual obligations to fraud, foreclosure, wrongful firing, failure to pay employees, the list goes on and on. Zabawa also has a history of hiring employees out of the Alpha House who are willing to work for virtually nothing during their stay at the halfway house. One of his salesmen, Maurice Gunn was recently arrested passed out in a McDonald’s drive thru in Billings for his 4th DUI while driving a Cadillac Escalade registered to Rimrock Auto Group. He and other Rimrock Auto Group employees served prison sentences after defrauding the federal government via fraudulent FEMA claims as they attempted to profit off of Hurricane Katrina.   Interestingly, Zabawa’s partner in crime, Representative James Knox also has a history of shady business dealings and failure to pay his employees.  Birds of a feather……..

It is clear to me that the genuine hazards for our kids, community and state are hanging out at 2540 Phyliss Lane (Rimrock Auto Group) in Billings.  I’d suggest refusing to do business with such unethical  people. For your information, Cherrie Brady owns the Del Taco restaurants in Billings and James Knox owns KBS Computers.