One of the most ridiculous bills of the 2011 Montana legislative session was rejected in committee this morning amid concerns about quantifying impairment. Members of the judiciary committee across the political spectrum (including Rep Ellie Hill (D-Missoula) and Rep Krayton Kerns (R-Laurel) opposed Ken Peterson‘s HB33, which sought to criminalize driving with ANY level of any detectable drug or drug metabolite. HB33 was nothing more than a back-door attempt to block the use of medical marijuana in Montana. A vocal proponent of repealing the Montana Medical Marijuana Act, Peterson, in sponsoring the legislation, initially may appeared well-intentioned. However, a provision making exceptions for legally prescribed drugs is evidence that this bill had less to do with public safety and more with control. Shame on Rep. Ken Peterson (R-Billings) for his blatant attempt to force Montanans to comply with his idea of morality.
Medical marijuana in Montana isn’t prescribed by a physician because federally, cannabis is still a schedule I illegal substance. Physicians in Montana recommend marijuana to patients they believe could benefit from use of the substance but this recommendation (as opposed to a prescription) would essentially prohibit legal medical marijuana users from driving at all. Metabolites can be detected in some people more than a month after using marijuana. The abuse and misuse of prescription drugs is reaching epidemic proportions in Montana- in teens and adults- and for some strange reason, Ken Peterson would prefer to have Oxycontin addicts behind the wheel than those using medical marijuana.
Obviously, nobody should drive while impaired as a result of any substance or condition (fatigue, for instance) but the mere presence of marijuana metabolites is not at all indicative of impairment. Can you imagine the enforcement and legal nightmares this sort of law would create? Essentially, eating a poppy seed muffin would be cause for arrest. Ken Peterson’s bills this session have led some to question his intelligence.
Montana voted Republican in November not because they approve of the GOP, but because they disapprove of them less than the Democrat party. Sadly, many of the GOP legislators are spending political capital they have yet to earn which could ensure disappointments in 2012 elections. Regardless of personal opinions on social issues, concerns about the economy and a looming budget shortfall should take precedence. Voters will certainly not appreciate legislation motivated by the personal religious agendas of a few lawmakers.