There seems to be a prevailing theme in the Republicans seeking a full repeal of Montana’s medical marijuana law which was approved by voters in 2004. Many of the vocal repeal proponents have made sizable, often exorbitant profits from fledgling cannabis entrepreneurs. Representative James Knox and Mormon Steve Zabawa, are high-ranking members of the MONTaliban, an oppressive prohibition organization exploiting religious interests in efforts to affect public policy are two of Montana’s most prominent members. Zabawa attempted to take advantage of an naive and unsuspecting cannabis provider, demanding a percentage of profits in addition to monthly lease payments on property. Knox offered to virtually give away web services to his friend, a marijuana caregiver. In my experience, $600 for creating a website using a wordpress template is a high price, certainly not a discount, “virtually giving it away”.
Meet Senator Art Wittich, owner of Wittich Law Firm, which boasts the description “zealous advocates on behalf of our clients”. You may recall him unsuccessfully representing game farm owners against I-143, a citizens initiative banning “pet hunting”. Wittich is one of the Tea party’s finest, scoring a perfect rating on the prestigious”Tea Party Questionaire” . The Tea party doesn’t put a very high value on character, it would appear. After all, one of the Tea party’s darlings, Representative James Knox has been embroiled in scandal since taking office, as employees and business contacts accuse him of pervasive shady business practices. Senator Wittich, however; may surpass even Rep Knox’s unethical behavior. In Thursday’s Senate floor session, a client of Wittich Law firm, A Kinder Caregiver was shocked and hurt hearing Wittich’s testimony favoring repeal. For more than two years, the medical cannabis business spent a considerable amount of money with Wittich’s law firm, which assisted in providing guidance to ensure compliance with the I-148, the often vague statute governing Montana’s medical cannabis laws. A Kinder Caregiver was willing to invest substantial financial resources to retain adequate counsel in efforts to adhere to state laws so one can only imagine what the business endured, watching their state senator and owner of the firm providing their legal services testify in support of legislation that would not only destroy, but abolish entirely their industry. A vote to destroy an important industry in Wittich’s home district indicates several potential character flaws considering the basic expectation that an attorney typically protects the client’s best interests, but to voluntarily provide factually questionable yet persuasive testimony is almost unconscionable. Wittich could have bridged the vast gap between the patient-driven industry and the pervasive ignorance exemplified by the right-wing in Montana’s legislature. Even more disturbing was the Senator’s decision to incorporate his own status as a cancer survivor into his arguments in favor of eliminating safe access to cannabis for approximately 30,000 Montana citizens.
A Kinder Caregiver, with discreet locations in three Montana cities, acted responsibly in retaining legal counsel to ensure compliance with the initiative. After working together for more than two years, they discovered in grand fashion, that the entity providing legal protection had more loyalty to Republican party leadership than to his constituents and clients. While voting for repeal would have likely damaged the business’s relationship with the firm, Wittich’s testimony and exploitation of his personal health history ensured it. The firm was fired immediately after the Senate hearing, which approved the revocation of Montana patients’ rights to safely access cannabis, in direct conflict with the desires of Montana’s citizens, as 62% approved the compassionate initiative .