Drug dealers, cartels and gangs of organized criminals are salivating at the employment opportunities being created in Montana by Republicans in the legislature. Other criminal drug enterprises are excited at the prospects of adding marijuana back into their line-ups of available illegal substances. The prohibition party apparently believes advancing their moral agenda under the guise of making our community and kids safer is worth actually risking our state’s safety and our kid’s futures by advancing legislation which unintentionally but effectively stimulates illegal drug activity in Montana. Since Montana allowed the medical use of cannabis, the state has enjoyed continually improving crime rates. Will Montana’s crime rates skyrocket after elected leaders legislatively subsidize the criminal narcotics element?
A number of factors contributed to a dramatic and surprising outcome of Sen. Jeff Essmann’s socialistic (government-controlled access, supply and demand) SB 423 reading in the Montana Senate, which in a shocking move, instantly revived dying HB 161, a full repeal of Montana’s medical marijuana law passed in 2004 by citizen’s initiative. Republican Senate leadership apparently misjudged or overlooked Wednesday’s deadline for SB 423 to proceed to the House. In order to accommodate the looming deadline, a rules suspension was required to allow the bill to be heard and voted upon twice in one day. The Senate GOP majority was on first attempt unable to obtain the required 2/3 majority votes necessary to suspend the rules. After the initial rules suspension vote failed, Sen. Brenden of Scobey retaliated, making a successful blast motion sending Rep Milburn’s repeal legislation, HB 161, which had stalled after a deadlock in the Senate Judiciary Committee, to the Senate floor for full debate. Disappointed at unfruitful attempts to cash in some bargaining chips in exchange for support, Democrats persevered, undaunted even after Republicans resurrected HB 161, in obvious attempt to intimidate dissenting senators in hopes of
threatening gently persuading them. The GOP again failed to produce the necessary votes.
The blame for the likely demise of medical marijuana reform legislation, according to many Republicans rests squarely on the left- Governor Schweitzer’s office in particular. Senate majority leader Jeff Essmann, who sponsored the “reform” bill in question was quick to criticize the governor’s office for utilizing the entire 6 days allowed by rules to prepare a fiscal note detailing the financial impact of the legislation. The bill’s fiscal note was only available Wednesday morning which didn’t allow enough time for separate votes on the legislation, according to Senator Essmann. Fortunately for the Republicans, the bill still has the ability to proceed to the House- but only if the house too is willing to approve a suspension of the rules, also requiring a 2/3 majority vote. In the event that the House fails to garner the necessary numbers, the reform bill is considered dead. The House’s repeal-friendly political climate suggests a house-approved rules suspension may be unlikely, although not entirely impossible.
Montana’s left wing, proactively seeking a workable solution made numerous attempts at compromise with Republicans to no avail- an increasingly common occurrence this session. Some Democrats hoped to exchange rules suspension votes for Republican support of unrelated legislation such as the bonding bill but Republicans refused to cooperate. Still 0ther Democrat senators claimed their votes against rules suspension were due to Republicans killing a majority of the thoughtful amendments to SB 423 sponsored by Democrats. Without the amendments, the legislation was considered by many, a repeal bill masquerading as reform. The legislation unamended, also lacked the support of patients and facility owners alike. Naturally, Republicans have responded to charges of being uncooperative with Democrat legislators by leveling their own at the Democrat legislators. While I’m inclined to support Republicans in most right-left battles, Republicans in this case appear to be drunk on power and for reasons unknown, determined to eliminate any chance at their own success in 2012 elections. Sanity is currently a questionable diagnosis for this party so I’m reluctant to buy their stories. This time the Democrats seem more credible- even if only by default- as Republicans have displayed such a compelling propensity for dishonesty this session.
The high-drama political spectacle orchestrated by Senate Republicans today was a gift to illegal drug dealers and associated organized criminals who now can optimistic about their realistic chances of soon controlling the market, supply, and prices of marijuana in Montana. Montana’s medical cannabis industry has driven illegal marijuana dealers out of the state. Competing with legitimate state-licensed facilities wasn’t attractive to the black market criminals who watched prices plummet after card-holding customers began utilizing licensed caregivers. Most marijuana currently sells for around half the price it did prior to enacting Montana’s medical cannabis law which was passed in 2004. Historically, prohibition is beneficial for gangs and organized criminals. Quality always suffers and prices increase.
Essmann frequently mentions”This isn’t what Montanans voted for” although I’m certain he doesn’t know either. I doubt Montanans would in good conscience support legislation for the “greater good” that would actually cause further degradation of our society, but because repeal would require overturning an initiative passed by Montana citizens anyway, they should have an opportunity, just in case Essmann doesn’t actually know what we thought we were voting for.
Considering the widespread use of marijuana, a safe and effective substance, is likely to continue regardless of legislation passed in Montana, one wonders why the GOP would destroy an entire industry, thus ensuring virtually associated money ends up smuggled in backpacks to northern California instead of being spent in Montana. Tough choices, legislators: Contribute to our own state’s depressed economy or fund drug dealing California criminals? Thousands of Montanans employed by the medical cannabis industry or thousands of Montanans drawing unemployment benefits draining resources? Legitimately ill patients obtaining medicine in a safe, clean and professional atmosphere or patients self-medicating with marijuana they acquired in a dark alley via terrifying strangers while risking their freedom to relieve their pain? The choice is clear but unfortunately your legislators aren’t listening.