Hail Mary Jane: Montana’s Governor and the Fate of Medical Cannabis

Dear Governor Schweitzer:

 I humbly write,  in hopes that you will consider vetoing SB 423.  The legislation is not only contrary to the will of the people, but it endangers the very segment of the population the original bill was designed to benefit. I am a lifelong active and outspoken Republican-  never prior to this legislative session, however;  have I been so thankful to have a Democrat Governor.  I understand that you have come to an agreement on this issue with leaders of both houses and I can only pray that the medical cannabis patients and industry are not casualties of compromise.
The GOP is concerned about marijuana ruining our “rough and tough cowboy image”, but they should be far more concerned about the stereotypes their legislation and public statements are perpetuating.  The lunatics running our legislative branch have brought us plenty of media attention- from declaring DUI laws so oppressive that they ruin Montana’s way of life, birther bills, debates on returning to the gold standard or passing resolutions to remove our NATION from the UN to reinforcing current unconstitutional statutes making homosexual acts felonies and imposing the Code of the West on our citizens who don’t need a code to live by. Such negative publicity endangers our “cowboy” image far more than treating our infirm with compassion and dignity.
Regardless of whether or not you personally approve of the use and/or cultivation of medical cannabis, an industry has grown around a need.  This industry employs thousands of formerly unemployed Montanans- not only the approximately 5000 state-licensed caregivers but many carpenters, contractors, electricians, as well as employees of gardening supply shops, hardware stores, and security firms. It is irresponsible, arrogant and downright malicious to destroy an entire industry based on the majority party’s misguided idea of morality.
 The conference committee members freely admitted that they weren’t educated on the cultivation of cannabis nor were they familiar with the science behind the substance.  This was not, however; for lack of trying on the part of the industry.  We have emailed, called, made personal visits, opened our operations for legislators to tour, all to no avail.  It was clear at each hearing that the GOP legislators had an agenda to destroy the industry, regardless of our testimonies, emails, calls, and visits.  One particular legislator even went so far as to attack me for my views, sending my personal contact information to repeal proponents with the instructions to harass me. At an LCC fundraiser recently, the House majority leader, Rep. McGillvray, in his speech, lamented that Montana was “wasting so much money on meth prevention when the real problem in our state is medical marijuana”.  It is humiliating to me as a Republican to watch legislators I helped elect make such a mockery of our party, our legislative body, and our state.  These legislators are college-educated professionals yet they prefer to rely on their tired, self-righteous, and unfounded political rhetoric instead of accepting scientific data.
The GOP has been very selective in their interpretation and exploitation of the Constitution.  They condemn any federal intervention in the imposition of health care reform or protecting wolves yet when it suits their agenda, as in this case; they are quick to praise the federal government.   While the federal raids happened well over a month ago, there have still been no indictments- yet the Republicans in opposition to medical marijuana, use the raids to justify repealing our cannabis law and destroying an industry. None of the Montanans who were raided have been even charged with a crime let alone convicted of one.  Incessantly the prohibitionists rant about caregivers selling marijuana to school children, yet there have been no arrests of these conveniently unnamed individuals.  Most people in this industry would like to see such people arrested as such behavior puts our patients’ legal access at risk.
The legislative body has had 3 prior sessions to approve thoughtful medical cannabis legislation, they failed to do so.  Nobody could foresee the Ogden memo or it’s influence on the proliferation of patients in Montana but that does NOT mean that those patients do not suffer legitimately.  Who are our legislators- attorneys, businessmen, and ministers- to tell physicians that 15 patient recommendations warrants an automatic investigation at the doctor’s own expense?
SB 423 is an egregious example of economic terrorism. After Milburn’s precious repeal bill was vetoed, the majority party planned to deliver to you yet another repeal bill disguised as a regulatory/reform bill, hoping that it would satisfy your desire to regulate the industry.  Please do not be fooled by this masquerade- this legislation attacks our compassionate cannabis law on every level.
 Patients will most likely not be able to afford the necessary and onerous requirements to substantiate and confirm their conditions, physicians (who already shy away from recommending cannabis primarily due to stigma and bias, but also fear of federal prosecution and prohibition by medical facility administrations) will likely be more apt to prescribe a narcotic pain reliever- often to patients’ detriment. When prescribing Oxycontin, which related overdoses and drug interactions kill thousands of Americans annually- only one physician is needed.  When prescribing dependency-prone ADHD medications for CHILDREN- one of which is pharmaceutical methamphetamine- only one physician is required.  Physicians, who have successfully completed far more medical education than most of our legislators combined, should not be subject to this sort of legislation, which shows no respect for the position.
 Caregivers will not be able to afford to provide their services, skills, and wisdom on a strictly charitable basis. Advertisement bans will prevent patients from locating caregivers in their area- if there happen to be any, that is. Laboratories, which ensure quality control are prohibited. The conference committee clearly has no clue how expensive and labor-intense the cultivation of cannabis can be.  They are unfamiliar with patients’ needs, growing methods, potential for infestation, etc. Their moral agenda puts ill Montanans’ health and well-being in serious jeopardy.  Patients are often not only too ill or disabled to successfully cultivate their own medicine, they typically haven’t a clue how to do so.  Of the ones who are physically able, most don’t have the necessary space, lighting, ventilation, or moisture and temperature regulation required of the cannabis plant.  In addition to that, because providers under SB 423 don’t have the ability to legally  “buy or sell mature marijuana plants, seedlings, cuttings, clones, usable marijuana or marijuana-infused products, we have to wonder how patients will obtain them- or how they will deal with an infestation, an electricity failure, an accidental fertilization or a hermaphrodite plant without the ability to obtain these vital components of cannabis cultivation.
Most of us have turned little or no profits in this industry, but why should capitalism be condemned?  This legislation forces growers to not only work for no profit, growers cannot even be compensated for the expenses incurred in growing the medicine. Plant limits are reduced and growers are limited to three patients.  I suspect this will not be a problem- after all, the more plants one has, the more money the grower loses.  Legislators don’t work for free, I’m shocked and disturbed that they expect us to do so. Banning storefronts and advertising won’t be much of an issue- in fact, including those provisions is a waste of time and paper because common sense (which is seriously lacking in our legislature) tells us that storefronts and advertising require capital.  Providers are now essentially charities so I cannot comprehend how anyone on the conference committee would consider these restrictions necessary.
I understand that the GOP believes the law frivolously allows the recreational use of a federally banned substance and that they consider it at best, a  privilege.  That said, prohibiting Montanans from using the substance medically solely because they have committed crimes seems rather callous.  Are symptoms of debilitating diseases less valid because of sins of the past? Not only is it inhumane, this component of the legislation invalidates the use of cannabis as a MEDICINE which regressively validates those possessing the “marijuana is an illegal substance” stance.
I hope you are planning to utilize your “VETO” brand at least one more time this session,  and that you will consider doing so on SB 423. The lunacy of this legislative session has taught me some painful political lessons and although I realize that voters’ memories are historically short, mine is anything but.  Should you veto this bill, you will earn my respect and should you have political aspirations beyond  Montana’s Governor, I may even assist in your endeavors.  At the very least, I will try to restrain my bloggers from any unfair attacks and I give you my word that if you are criticized by Republicans for branding SB 423 with the VETO, I will defend that action as long as I live.  Thank you for your time and consideration in this matter.  Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.
Nicole French
SD 25/HD 50

6 thoughts on “Hail Mary Jane: Montana’s Governor and the Fate of Medical Cannabis

  1. Thank you for saying what I can’t. As a patient, neighbor, community member, I pray the Gov. will listen to you and and those others willing to listen and work this mess out together. Thank you

  2. Great post! Man does this have me nervous. I see no way 423 can be amended to save it as a practical bill. Praying for a Veto!

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