Debunking the Debunker: Jeff Essmann


Montanans this year have been subjected to extraordinary deception by their elected officials. The following bit of dramatic, nanny government style propaganda appeared in Wednesday’s Billings Gazette.  It was written by chief prohibitionist Republican Senator Jeff Essmann.  Debunks of his debunks appear in red.

There has been much media coverage lately of the legal challenge to Senate Bill 423, the new Montana Marijuana Act recently enacted with strong bipartisan support of 113 of 150 Montana legislators. A legal action was filed by the highly paid, hired gun of the millionaire marijuana growers to prevent them from losing their very profitable business model on July 1. A variety of claims have been circulated by those wishing to retain the “Wild West” situation developed under the ambiguous language found in the original act, which set up a system for people to access a product that is still illegal under federal law. It is time to debunk those claims.

“The point of prohibiting compensation to registered providers was to divorce the cash from the privilege of transporting marijuana around the community.”

First, the proponents for retaining the current mess argue that eliminating the storefront model, which allowed a “caregiver” to provide marijuana to hundreds of registered cardholders, will effectively eliminate all access to the product, as the cardholders will be forced to grow their own, which they are alleged to be incapable of, or be aided by a provider that is limited to a maximum of three cardholders, the “small provider” model.  No, actually, we call this the no-provider model.  No providers of services are willing to do so for zero compensation and a significant financial loss.  Cardholders WILL then be forced to grow their own as access will disappear.  Just in case a few independently wealthy marijuana philanthropists slip through the cracks to utilize this “privilege”, the legislature ensured they could only provide their charity for a maximum of 3 patients.  God forbid a do gooder do too much good. While the old model indeed allowed providers to serve hundreds of patients, an overwhelming majority of caregivers had a very small number of patients- typically only one.  If Montana’s caregivers were forced to become non-profits, they’d be elated.  Profits weren’t an issue in most cases anyway and in non-profit agencies, at least expenses can be paid.  Under SB 423, the caregiver must donate all equipment, nutrients, seeds, etc to the cause – the patient cannot reimburse the grower for their services, time or wisdom. 

Of the 14 states that have approved the use of marijuana by chronically sick or terminally ill people, five states including Alaska, Nevada, New Jersey, Vermont and Washington currently use the small provider model. I am not aware of any evidence that shows that the model used in these other states has denied access to the truly ill.  Montana’s medical marijuana laws, thanks to Essmann’s SB 423 is known as the worst marijuana law in the nation. OK, let’s examine this comparison state by state:

 Alaska: possession of less than an ounce of marijuana is actually LEGAL in the state.  Possession of less than 25 plants is protected under Alaska’s constitutional “right to privacy”.  

Nevada:  First and second offenses of small amounts of marijuana are treated as minor traffic violations.  Affirmative defense is admissible as well. 

New Jersey: Growers are non-profit agencies, not NO pay agencies. Because of its very recent inception, we have no way to know whether NJ’s laws will work. 

Washington: Although caregivers can only serve one patient, they can be reimburse and can GASP! even profit. Affirmative defense is admissible. 

Delaware:  Delaware became the 16th medical marijuana state only less than 2 weeks ago and is in the process of a one year regulatory licensing period before cultivation can proceed.  Using Delaware as an example is ridiculous.

SB423 does not prohibit a card holder who grows his own from paying for assistance so long as the adviser is not a registered marijuana provider, and the advice does not include the act of “cultivation” prohibited by other criminal laws. The point of prohibiting compensation to registered providers was to divorce the cash from the privilege of transporting marijuana around the community, for obvious reasons. Reasonable access and assistance are still permitted.  All “cultivation” is prohibited by other criminal laws, so this is obviously a ridiculous justification.  I find it interesting that Essmann claims that patients can pay for advice though… from anyone other than someone who actually grows marijuana.  I don’t think I’d take FREE advice from a non-grower.  As for those “obvious reasons”, what are they, Jeff? 

There is no constitutional right to access marijuana, although the plaintiffs’ pleadings can be read to make that reach. If the court finds that unregulated access to marijuana is required by the Montana Constitution under the “pursuit of life’s necessities” provision it contains, we may soon see similar claims for other controlled substances such as methamphetamine, cocaine, and improperly used prescription drugs. After all, the argument will go, whose job is it to decide what is medicine and for whom? Prohibition of alcohol required a constitutional amendment, so it could also be argued that there is no constitutional prohibition of marijuana either.  I’d hardly call it a “reach”. Marijuana kills 0 people/year.  Prescription drugs kill far more people than illegal drugs combined.  Whose job IS it to decide what is medicine and for whom, Mr. Essmann?  Since you took on the feat yourself, I assume you think it is your job- as a lawyer or a legislator?  I prefer to make those decisions with my physician, but attorneys are smart too.  Perhaps I will ask my physician for advice if I decide to get divorced.  

As of May 1, a group of 33 doctors in Montana has certified 28,959 patients, or an average of 877 each. Therefore, SB423 prohibits financial relationships between doctors and marijuana growers and requires the Montana Board of Medical Examiners to review whether doctors certifying more than 25 patients a year are following the board’s adopted protocols. There can be no interference in a doctor-patient relationship if a valid relationship does not exist. Of course, nobody cares how many opiate or stimulant prescriptions physicians write, after all, they are big Pharma certified. Don’t forget to mention that the law also discourages physicians from writing recommendations because they automatically trigger investigations at their own expense after 25 patients.  Sounds like as much fun as an IRS audit.  

SB423 dismantles the “Montana cannabis industry” but preserves reasonable access for legitimate cardholders to a substance that, I must remind everyone, remains illegal to possess and distribute under federal law.  I guess our definitions of reasonable differ.  I’ve suggested to my patients that they seek the advice of black market drug dealers who operate in dark alleys to protect them from our oppressive government.  After all, when state authorities cannot legally arrest medical marijuana growers, they simply hand over all relevant information to federal agencies. Don’t believe me?  Just wait until you read about the raids Lee Enterprises has yet to publish… or just wait for a knock at your door.  The feds have patient records in hand now.  Blame legislators like Jeff Essmann.  

State Sen. Jeff Essmann,

R-Billings, served as Senate

majority leader and primary sponsor of SB423.

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15 thoughts on “Debunking the Debunker: Jeff Essmann

  1. This editorial reveals the author’s intentions in so many ways. The poorly thought out and and poorly written statements concerning either acutely or chronically ill patients growing their own MMJ with the assistance of unscreened helpers is weak at best, with no logic or facts, or even compelling arguements to back up claims. There’s no way Mr. Essman can disguise the fact that the bill seeks, on every level to irradicate MMJ in the state–getting prescriptions from doctors, qualifying for prescriptions, growing enough cannabis to have an adequate supply (if you’re able), or access to cannabis from professional growers. The bill cuts off access to prescriptions by redefining debilatating illnesses, how chronic pain is substantiated, and threatening, harrassing and discriminating against doctors who prescribe MMJ. Tell me what would happen if you made a law that said all endocrinologists and general practitioners would be reviewed if they wrote more than 25 prescriptions for insulin, and would have to pay for their review? I’d say that it was discrimination and profiling. Of course doctors in certain specialties will write more MMJ prescriptions than others. That’s a no brainer. Neurologists, cancer specialists, chronic pain specialists, opthamologists, etc. all have patients that could benefit whereas most pediatricians, dermatologists, etc don’t. In addition, some doctors who do have patients who could benefit from MMJ are too afraid to write prescriptions because of retribution from anyone from their employers to the state medical board to the feds. Mr. Essman, just quit pretending and admit that SB423 is a repeal bill. To suggest that it is workable just ruins what little credibility you have left, and makes reasonable, intelligent people angry.

  2. This editorial makes me so angry. Sure, its full of lies about how SB423 creates “reasonable access” to MMJ, how it was important to dismantle the industry “for obvious reasons”(?), and how doing so does nothing to impact “reasonable access” to those who really need it. But what really makes me angry is the tone of disrespect toward OPPONENTS of SB423 in the editorial. For instance, “A legal action was filed by the highly paid, hired gun of the millionaire marijuana growers”, “claims have been circulated by those wishing to retain the “Wild West” situation”, “proponents for retaining the current mess”, “the cardholders will be forced to grow their own, which they are alleged to be incapable of”, …These are very disrespectful, insensitive and even condescending remarks being made to a group, which when last measured by popular vote equaled 62% of MT voters. You are very wrong, Mr. Essman, when you say that Montanans do not have a constitutional “right” to use MMJ. What you don’t realize is that not only do 30,000+ cardholers feel they have this right, so do at least 70,000 recreational users. But, the biggest group, by far, is the group that cares nothing about MMJ, but everything about freedom, personal responsibility and choice, and liberty. The “highly paid hired gun” was hired by these people, not the “millionare growers”. This movement gives new meaning to a “Grass Roots” movement, and you are about to see just how strong it is.

    • If marijuana was so easy to grow, and was making caregivers into millionaires, I’d think more patients would be growing their own. After all, they are legally able. I’ve supplied clones, growing advice, equipment and nutrients to my patients and I’m certain that not even one of them has produced even one bud of usable cannabis. We wouldn’t need to pool our pennies (yes pennies, not millions) to pull an attorney out of retirement to defend our rights if not for the ignorance and fear displayed by the likes of Essmann and his parroting minions. It seems that Essmann is encouraging current caregivers to become cannabis consultants for hire. Just as long as we don’t have a caregiver card, we can be compensated. Or maybe we should become business partners with caregivers. We pay them rather than the patient?

  3. Jeff Essmann is one of these new GOProgressives that think they can nanny-state from a so-called right wing agenda.

    This guy is a pro-tax, big government nanny stater that has tricked the idiots and quislings into believing he’s conservative.

    Jeff Essmann is NO conservative, and despises Americans who hold to a conservative/traditional/libertarian view of the constitution and individual rights. Just because you don’t like something that I do does not mean I can’t do it.

    Assmann needs to leave the referendums to the voters and laws on medicine to doctors, not just some bozo who got some votes…

  4. does anyone have this assholes home or cell number and his personal email? i would love to call and ask him all the stupid questions i have and everyoe else has about his black market bullshit marijuana bill

      • I guess he’s not up yet! I wanted to discuss the MS attack I had this week.
        I really wanted to discuss my 3 Dr.s of which 2 won’t sign my card, now one left to try. I think the Billings Clinic has banned all their doctors from the recommendation. Working on confirmation on that one. I guess I’ll ask the nurse when I go get another I.V. of a steroid again today.

        I’m just so fed up by these BLATANT lies. That letter was condescending and rude.

  5. You guys are surely missing the real problem –

    Marijuana is absolutely illegal under Federal Law.

    The only way to fix your problem is through the Congress and the Obama regime.

    That’s it. No matter what we the voters do, and no matter what the legislature does, the Feds can and will enforce the Federal Law.

    I recommend taking your fight to Baucus, Tester, Rehberg, and The Great Leader himself, President Obama.

    • Yes, Eric, Cannabis IS illegal under federal law but the ONLY way to fix the problem is not “Obama and the Congress”. The Feds are PART of the problem but we will have to make state by state changes to the law just like they did when they made it illegal to begin with. DC didn’t wake up one day and start a campaign, Hearst started in one big city, then another and another. States soon followed and only when Hearst and Standard Oil and the nascent 3M/Dow industries applied pressure did Anslinger and the Feds get involved. It will only be AFTER several states legalize it that the Federal Government falls in line. The main drive in the State level will be failing economies and overgrown prison populations FORCING change. See California, for instance.

    • Its easy to call out Federal law, especially if you don’t read Montana’s state law. The Federal Mandates Act says:
      2-1-402. Legislative declaration. (1) (a) In enacting this part, the legislature employs its legislative authority to establish that the people of the state of Montana, acting through their elected officials in state government, have the responsibility and authority to establish policy in and for Montana pertaining to federal programs mandated in federal statutes.
      (b) The intent of the legislature is to ensure the primacy of the state of Montana’s legal and political authority to implement in and for Montana the policy mandated by federal statutes and to vigorously challenge and scrutinize the extent and scope of authority asserted by federal executive branch agencies when federal agency actions and interpretations are inconsistent with Montana policy and exceed the lawful authority of the federal government or are not required by federal law.
      (c) In this regard, the Montana legislature finds and declares that:
      (i) the power to implement federal policies in and for Montana is central to the ability of the people of Montana to govern themselves under a federal system of government; and
      (ii) any implementation of federal policies in and for Montana by federal executive branch agencies that is contrary to fundamental notions of federalism and self-determination must be identified and countered.

      Can you say, 10th Amendment?

      • The tenth amendment doesn’t apply to the war on drugs, haven’t you heard? Thanks for the lesson in state law, Chris. I will be keeping the federal mandates act close to my heart and my blog.

  6. With regard to Jeff Essman’s (aka SS Essman)comments justifying SB 423, I can only say that his perspective toward mmj patients and providers is very similar to the tactics employed by the Nazi party in the 1930’s during their subjugation and persecution of “undesirables” in Europe. Anytime, an elected official can marginalize and condemn elements of their own community with the same nonchalance displayed by Essman, it demonstrates why we need to be ever-vigilant of whom we vote for. What’s next for mmj patients? concentration camps? Ovens?

  7. Essman will be in Billings tonight (6/1/11) at the Billings Unitarian Universalist Fellowship 2032 Central Ave. from 6:30-9:30 speaking about SB423. Everyone should come and try to get their questions answered.

    P.S. Not to be picky, but Essman referenced Vermont, not Delaware, in his Gazette Opinion article.

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