Adios Assmann!


Essentially citing lackluster support, tax-loving prohibitionist Senator Jeff Essmann has decided to focus on electing Republicans rather than waste his coin losing the 2012 GOP Gubernatorial primary election. While I can hardly control my excitement, I must admit that some part of me  was looking forward to obtaining the inevitable and infinite fodder for critique at the Yellowstone Young Republicans Gubernatorial Debate scheduled for February 9 in Billings.  Anyone who has witnessed Jeff Essmann partake in an original soliloquy knows exactly what I’m talking about.  Considering that the questions asked in the debate will not be shared with the candidates prior, one can only imagine the panic Essmann must have been experiencing.

Judging from the comments on the Billings Gazette article announcing Essmann dropping from the race, this decision has elated many Montanans.

 

Although Essmann didn’t endorse another candidate, he implied that he will be supporting Rick Hill. Many are speculating that Essmann was forced from the race after the Hill campaign discovered a scandal.  The Senator mentioned that he plans to return campaign donations… I urge those of you who contributed to Essmann to donate those funds to the campaign of Corey Stapleton.  I look forward to seeing you all at the GOP Gubernatorial debate in Billings February 9, hosted by the Yellowstone Young Republicans.

I’d also like to see approximately five of the current (crowded) GOP field of 8, after Essmann’s departure; drop out to provide a clear contrast among the remaining candidates. The filing fee exceeds some of the entire campaign treasuries of candidates and any who are unable to raise enough cash to pay for the filing fee are likely not the over-achiever we need in Montana’s Capitol.

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Senator Jeff Essmann’s Taxing History


Jeff Essmann announced tonight that he will GASP be running for Governor of Montana.  In an uncomfortably awkward conference call- townhall meeting, Essmann prosaically  listed his accomplishments, forgetting all about the legislation that provided him essential name-recognition. His fluffer, Senator Jason Priest; assisted with creating some faux passion for the candidate who is generally regarded as the epitome of dull.  As Essmann would launch into another list of accomplishments, occasionally Senator Priest would stop him, exclaiming “I’m sorry to interrupt you, Senator Essmann, but what you just said was pretty exciting! Perhaps you’d like to share more about that with callers.” Repeated themes throughout the “event” included:  resisting the Obama agenda, standing up to federal intrusion in our state, and “Essmann with 2 Ns”.  The callers seemed to be plants- although many cannabis patients and providers on the call tried to ask questions, none of them were able.

My favorite caller was Warren, from Lolo. He is a retired, older gentleman living on a fixed income.  Although he owns his home, he suspects he will soon be forced to sell it as the property taxes are very high.  It is interesting that Warren mentions this issue, actually; he certainly was talking to the appropriate person anyway.  You see, Essmann’s legislation, a re-write of HB 658, was an attempt to mitigate the financial sting of property reappraisals.  The attempt backfired and instead of lessening the blow, Montanans were slapped with the largest property tax increases in their lifetimes… during an economic recession.

So, Warren; does that answer your question? Essmann, a self described “conservative republican” is no stranger to funding government growth with tax proceeds-in fact, he proposed adding a local sales tax as well. As the unpopular candidate struggles to stand out in a like-minded crowd his insatiable appetite for taxes will set him almost certainly set him apart from the pack.  Currently, nine GOP candidates are vying for the position of Governor, all of whom happen to be more interesting and well-liked than Senator Essmann.

Eight Isn’t Enough: The Axis of EGO Plans a “MAJOR” Announcement


Jeff Essmann plans to make a “major announcement” later today.  Perhaps he would like to apologize to the medical marijuana patients and growers for creating health-endangering legislation that makes compliance nearly impossible.  More likely, however,  Senate Majority Leader Jeff Essmann (Billings, Prohibitionist/Tax Increase Party) is going to stop with the “exploratory committee” insantity and finally announce his run for Montana’s Governor tomorrow. Senator Essmann in a shocking move (not) has hired Dustin Frost, of 47 North Communications, to manage his campaign.  Frost, a former Rehberg staffer who received massive head injuries in a Flathead boat wreck a few years back; was recently quoted in the Flathead Beacon’s article “Schweitzer’s Successor“.

State Sen. Jeff Essmann from Billings is “actively considering” a run. And, according to the AP, he is being encouraged to get in the race by GOP consultants with close ties to Montana Congressman Denny Rehberg. Dustin Frost, Rehberg’s former state director and a partner in 47 North Communications, said Essmann would be a “heavyweight” if he runs.

“He’s being encouraged……… by consultants with close ties to Rehberg”, wow…. talk about a shameless name drop.  It sounds like Mr Frost was in reality only promoting his employer.  Should Montanans be influenced by the endorsement of a candidate’s employee- a paid campaign consultant? Not this Montanan.

The GOP ticket was already uncomfortably crowded, with already ample representation from Yellowstone County– Former State Senate Minority Leader Corey Stapleton, Former State Senator and previously unsuccessful Gubernatorial candidate Ken Miller, and rising political star Keith Winkler…. perhaps that was a bit of an exaggeration.  Other Republicans running include former US Congressman Rick Hill from Helena, Neil Livingstone, a terrorism expert based in DC (although his home is in Helena) and James O’Hara, a Chouteau County  Commissioner. Earlier today, Drew Turiano of Helena filed for the race as did Robert Fanning, a retired CEO now living in Pray.  Current AG Steve Bullock is expected to be the Democrat Party nominee, but is planning a contested primary with Larry Jent.  Ron Vandevender is running as a libertarian.

Thanks to Montana’s disenfranchised medical marijuana patients, Essmann attained the level of name recognition necessary to run for a statewide office when he authored SB423, to repeal Montana’s medical marijuana law.  In a field chock-full of conservatives, let’s differentiate Essmann from his peers.

  1. Taxes.  Essmann’s legislation provided many Montanans the sharpest tax increase in their lifetimes.  It was unexpected and during a recession.
  2. Personal Responsibility. When Essmann approached Governor Schweitzer to complain about the implications of the above legislation, the Governor said “Essmann complaining about his bill is like the architect that was warned by the engineer over and over again if you build it that way, it will fall down.”
  3. Family Values. With a penchant for liberal ladies (his wives are all lefties) Senator Essmann is childless.  Perhaps he has a puppy or something instead.
  4. Smaller Government. Essmann isn’t one to challenge the federal government. If the feds consider it illegal, he certainly won’t defend your right to use it.  Oh yeah, unless we are talking about guns, wolves, or Obamacare.   He forced massive taxes on property owners and rescinded the rights of tens of thousands of medical marijuana patients to access their medicine safely. I guess his ideology borders on hypocrisy.
  5. Liberty.  Essmann’s baby, SB 423 is a clunky, oppressive prohibition bill.  It overturns a very popular citizens initiative and essentially sends the sickest people in our state to the dark alleys to obtain necessary medicine. Several primary components have already been ruled unconstitutional. An initiative by Patients for Reform, Not Repeal has officially qualified the law for the 2012 ballot to enable voters to decide its verdict, with a particularly incredible showing in Yellowstone County, even in Essmann’s own district.  Note:  Essmann refused to sign the petition.
  6. Support.  Although the rumor is “Essmann already has more money than the other candidates combined”, we know if that is the case, it is his own.  Montana’s campaign laws prevent candidates from raising money until officially filing candidacy with the state so the money, if there is any; is likely his own cash.  The lovely ladies from Safe Community, Safe Kids are no doubt on board and his biggest fan is rumored to be Tom Hauptman, an oil player who has contributed to Rick Hill in the past.

Being Governor has reportedly been Essmann’s lifelong dream but  Essmann as governor would be Montana’s nightmare. Good luck to Frost.  Creating excitement in a campaign is difficult with such a dull candidate (thus, this “major announcement”). Last session, thankfully Essmann provided us with plenty of campaign material.  Regardless of his wealth, I don’t think Essmann has any chance in this race.

Life Lessons Via Montana Politics


Over six months ago, I wrote “the girl without a party”. It was one of the lowest moments of my life politically.  I posted it on my personal blog because I wasn’t yet comfortable associating my name with montanafesto.  Concern about my political reputation and the potential for retribution was quickly outweighed by disdain for the actions of the people I’d helped elect. Ron Paul- supporting Republican cannabis activists aren’t the most popular people in the GOP.  In the last year, I have learned some tough lessons and I’m an infinitely better person as a result.

I learned that sometimes I needed to separate politics from people. Democrat State Senator Kendall Van Dyk and I were friends long ago, early in his political career.  I was even in attendance when he originally announced he was running for the Montana House. Differences in our political ideology created some distance between us and next thing you know, I was campaigning against him in the 2010 election and bashing him publicly.  I’m rather sure I referred to him regularly as a socialist.  Donning my finest liberal looking faux eyeglasses, flat hair and earth tones, I attended a lovely Forward Montana fundraiser in Kendall’s honor.  Certain my disguise was adequate, I brazenly carried on as if I fit right in with the liberals at the event.  Until, that is; that Kendall recognized his old friend and decided to politely but publicly, call out my ridiculous behavior.  I was mortified….. not because it was embarrassing, but because I was WRONG.  My partner in crime was a tea person, actually the founder of Montana Shrugged’s boyfriend and after the awkward situation, we rehashed the night’s events at length.  The overall consensus was liberals suck and KVD deserved the criticism.  I, however; wasn’t convinced that my behavior was justified so I sent Kendall a lengthy and sincere Facebook message apologizing for my heinous behavior.  The rest is history.  During the last legislative session, he was in regular contact with me- asking questions, offering suggestions.  We’ve even found a number of issues we agree on.  Life isn’t always black and white.

I learned to think twice before accepting an invitation to a politician’s holiday dinner.  Last Thanksgiving, I dined with the Representative James Knox family.  I was certain that after Knox tasted my truffles and experienced delightful and intelligent dinner conversation compliments of my honor student middle school daughter and yours truly that he would consider the possibility that Montana’s state-licensed cannabis community wasn’t entirely composed of dangerous criminals.  No dice.  While dinner was lovely, James Knox later invented statements I’d supposedly made at the dinner to use against me with his fan club, Safe Community, Safe Kids.  He sent my personal information, cell phone number, Facebook url, email address, you name it, to the entire email list of SCSK with the instructions to “flood my inbox” with harassing messages.  He threatened to sue me for defamation for posting actual business contracts he’d entered with a prominent local medical marijuana caregiver.  He accused me of photoshopping vicious statements in screenshots that I’d taken from his personal Facebook wall.  I could have forgiven him for most of it, but claiming his brother was “stolen by marijuana” as he cried on cue in legislative testimony….. it was just too much.

I learned to value behavior over beliefs. I never liked Senator Dave Wanzenried’s politics, after all, he’s a yikes, Missoula liberal.  I sure like his character though.  Although I assume he probably answered every email he received, I definitely noticed that he responded to all of mine, all of my father’s, and all of my grandmother’s.  Considering that none of us live in his senate district and none of us are democrats made this especially unusual.  As a result, I paid more attention to his politics and discovered he wasn’t THAT liberal.  Although not at all surprised, I was disappointed he withdrew from the Gubernatorial race.

I cannot respect politicians who will not respect their constituents. I never liked Senator Jeff Essmann’s character and the last legislative session only reinforced my opinion. Prior to the 2010 elections, then RNC chair Michael Steele stopped in Billings for an event on the “Fire Pelosi” bus tour.  I worked the door for the event and directed incoming traffic to one side or another depending on if they had paid for their entrance in advance.  Dutifully, I greeted the smiling Republicans as they entered the event…. until Senator Essmann arrived.  I asked him if he’d paid in advance and I will never forget the look on his face.  He looked me slowly up and down, finally steadying his gaze, as he angrily snarled “Excuse me! I sponsored this event. You’ve got to be kidding me.”  He glared at me and stomped away.  As others in line stared at me, I was certain they were shocked that a lowly nobody like me would dare request that someone as important as dry cleaning millionaire Jeff Essmann pay the family entrance fee of $35.  US Congressman Denny Rehberg…. he paid.  Former Senator Conrad Burns….. he paid.  Gubernatorial candidates….yep, they paid too.  In Essmann’s eyes, I’m apparently a nobody.  I was, at the time; the elections director for the Young Republicans…. nowhere near as important as him. Although that day, I was dirt under Essmann’s shoes, he created plenty of mud in the following months, and I can’t wait to sling it at him.  He plans to announce his run for Governor of Montana soon and I intend to show him some of the love he showed me.

I learned that currently, the only big tent in Montana’s Republican Party is a CIRCUS tent. The tent is big enough for all of the hatred and all of the tea people/extremists/religious zealots but there is only room enough for people like me right around election time when candidates need some help placing signs and knocking on doors.  Sorry boys, this cycle I won’t be helping you, but I’m not going away and neither are the thousands of Montanans who are just like me. We will hold you accountable.

I’m not giving up hope. 


Humble “Public Servant” Jeff Essmann’s Exploratory Gubernatorial Committee Wants Your Input


At last, Montana’s infamous cannabis abolitionist-senator Jeff Essmann wants to clear up some rumors he’s been hearing because you, the voters, “deserve more than rumors”.  He’d like you to know that he is “actively considering a run for Governor in 2012.”  I’ve always considered consideration to be rather passive in nature, but Essmann’s sort is apparently active.   In the following letter Senator Jeff Essmann sent to voters on August 12, he refers to himself as a “public servant“, the shepherd of a conservative balanced budget, chairman of this, leader of that, blah blah blah.  He implies that the other candidates are can-kickers who lack the leadership qualities he epitomizes.  I’ve included images of both sides of this roughly-written letter (note to Essmann:  a speech/letter/legislation writer is in order) so you can enjoy it as much as I.

Jeff Essmann WANTS TO HEAR FROM YOU!!

Here is his contact information.                                                                                       406.534.3345                                                                                              jeff@jeffessmann.com                                                                                                            PO Box 80945                                                                                                                    Billings, MT  59108

Highlights for me:  He never voted for a state budget that increased government spending.  Nope, he increased YOUR spending on taxes.  I don’t know about you, but I just LOVE taxes.  In light of the number of unemployed Montanans Essmann’s legislation created, it warmed my heart to read that his annual coat drive has provided 90,000 winter coats to the needy.  Guess I know where we will be getting our coats this winter.  He mentions that his willingness to take on the toughest of challenges is a trait we need in our next governor.  Let’s see here.  He had four sessions to deal with regulating the medical marijuana industry.  He waited until the very last minute of the very last day of the very last session, when he forced dumped his hot mess, SB-423, on the laps of Montana’s elderly and ill.  Sounds courageous.

“Running on Empty” Speaker Jeff Essmann Runs From Constituents


Earlier this week, I received several invitations to the Billings stop of the “Running on Empty” bus tour by Americans for Prosperity.  Slated to speak at the event were Sen. Jeff Essmann (author of the infamous “black market” marijuana bill, SB423), Rep. Tom McGillvray (who at at an RLCC fundraiser stated that Montana was wasting its money on meth prevention as our real problem in Montana is medical marijuana) and Rep. Krayton Kerns, who pretends to be more constitutional and liberty-minded than he is in reality. The guest speakers were greeted by far more protesters than conservative supporters. Someone in the crowd called McGillvray a “commie”, Kerns was asked if he’d returned his federal farm subsidy welfare check and the cowardly star speaker, Jeff Essmann, couldn’t be bothered to attend. Prior to the event, representatives from the Ken Miller for Governor campaign were overheard calling to warn others of the opposition. Why are so many candidates for governor afraid of their constituents?  Opponents of McGillvray and Kerns outnumbered supporters at least 3 to 1 although some reports indicated that over 100 protesters attended while 20 or so were friendly.

Where’s Essmann?

Essmann may have been home analyzing the results of the recent solicitiation letters he sent to constituents as he explores a potential Gubernatorial bid.  Oddly enough, he omitted authoring SB423 in the lengthy resume’ he included in the letters.  He has repeatedly claimed that droves of his constituents begged and pleaded for a repeal of Montana’s medical marijuana law, so it does seem strange that he didn’t mention let alone herald that particular accomplishment. Perhaps he was using medical marijuana. Oh yes, that’s right, he has never done such a thing…. or has he?    Perhaps Essmann was home proposing legislation for the biggest tax increases in Montanans’ lifetimes.  Oh, never mind.  He already did that! Maybe he was providing statements to police, hoping to ensure a newly unemployed cannabis caregiver would be charged with a violation of the dreaded “privacy in communications act”.  Yeah, he already did that too.  Perhaps Essmann was out looking for Rep. James Knox, word on the street is that he’d like him to be his lieutenant governor.  Unfortunately for Essmann, Knox is apparently planning to leave the state, presumably taking his $733/mo in health benefits, compliments of Montana taxpayers, with him.

Anyway, back to the Americans for Prosperity event.  I wasn’t in attendance, but reports of McGillvray and Kerns being loudly booed were consistent.  One Republican politician- who actually lobbied Essmann and company to abandon plans for repeal in favor of thoughtful legislation during the session- left early because he was uncomfortable with the number of union thugs shouting down the speakers.  He said that he was not there to support the speakers but to support the local effort to elect new leaders who understand the need to live within our means and recognize that over-regulating is not the conservative way. Josh Daniels, an outspoken advocate for patients’ rights as well as a member of Patients for Reform, Not Repeal , said  “Overall it was a sad showing for them.  As a libertarian I do agree with the general concept, but the MT Tea Party is working for a nanny state with the LDS church on cannabis regulation.”  Mr. Daniels held a sign that read “SB423, Welcome Back Blackmarket”.

The Bozeman and Helena stops on the bus tour Thursday afternoon were also attended by a sizable group of protesters.  Friday’s stops include Kalispell, as well as the liberal university city of Missoula.  Similar events in Florida last week drew smaller than expected crowds. Perhaps Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group funded by the libertarian Koch brothers, should do a little research on their prospective speakers. I’m pretty sure that a speech by Republican Representative Mike Miller wouldn’t have drawn such opposition.

Most of those in attendance cited the need for jobs in Montana.  Note:  McGillvray, Kerns and Essmann all voted to eliminate the thousands of jobs in Montana’s medical cannabis industry.  Times certainly have changed since the last conservative bus tour stop in Billings. When then-GOP chairman Michael Steele brought the “Fire Pelosi” bus tour to Billings prior to the 2010 elections, hundreds of smiling and cheering supporters attended the event and I don’t recall seeing even one protester.  If only we had known then what sort of fools we were electing to represent us.

Thwarting the Tyrannical Minority: IR-124


During Montana’s 2011 legislative session, 113 of our elected representatives, in direct contradiction of the expressed will of the people, imposed their self-righteous puritanical views on the rest of us by approving SB 423. The lawmakers, after refusing to draft thoughtful legislation,approved Sen Jeff Essmann’s 33 page medical marijuana repeal bill and proudly announced to the  276,042 Montana voters who approved the state’s original law (I-148) that they were fulfilling voter intent.  Voters, patients and growers, however; were not convinced and have launched an initiative referendum campaign to refer SB 423 to Montana voters for rejection or approval.  IR-124, depending on the number of signatures obtained; has the potential to suspend SB 423 until November of 2012.

GET INVOLVED! This is an opportunity to assert your rights as a Montana citizen.  Legislators need to be reminded that they work for us and that we the people decide their political futures.  Repealing a citizens initiative sets a dangerous precedent and regardless of how Montanans actually feel about medical marijuana, it is difficult to understand how ANY could argue against empowering voters by allowing them to choose.  If we had trusted the legislature to act on our wishes, we would have never had a medical marijuana program in Montana yet a resounding 62% voted to approve it.  Time will tell whether this was or wasn’t what Montanans voted for.

If you are interested in helping with the effort to place IR-124 on the ballot, we’d love to hear from you. Visit our website, Patients for Reform, Not Repeal.  Training is required prior to gathering signatures so contact a zone coordinator or trainer and we will reserve a spot for you in one of our training sessions.

CONTACT INFO FOR PETITION TRAINERS:

SW Zone, Missoula/BRoot: Gabe McMurray at Sweetwater Caregivers at gabertoothtiger@gmail.com , phone number: 541-0420, Sweetwater also on Facebook

 NW Zone, Flathead area: James Blair, at jimmy1@neverhaulwateragain.com​ , also on Facebook as Jimmy   NC Zone, Great Falls area: Jessica Johnson mylittlebuggaboo@hotmail.com , 564-2667, and Grant Grenfell, here2headbang69@hotmail.com

SE Zone, Billings area: Elizabeth Springman at Elizabeth_Springman@yahoo.com 697-1810, and James Haneyheavenscentcannabis@gmail.com 670-0143

SCentral, Livingston, Big Sky, or Bozeman: Monica Blanchard in Livingston at ccofmt@gmail.com, 333-2622, or Charles Gaillard in Big Sky atjoinergroup@aol.com386-931-9334 ,and Dante Bonanin in Bozeman at bonusattheboz@hotmail.com

Central, Helena/Butte: Barb Trego at BarbsGoats@aol.com, 459-6247, and in Butte: Tawnya LaFond at TKiliayaRose1@aol.com 490-4273

Eastern Zone, Havre, Plentywood, Miles City, Glendive, Terry, Jordan, Circle, Glasgow, Wolf Point, Sidney, Broadus: Nicole French at NicoleFrench88@gmail.com 208-0204 and on Facebook.

Please consider making a financial contribution or give us a few hours of your time….the September 30 deadline for obtaining the necessary signatures is looming.

Saint Essmann: The Innocence of Malignant Narcissism


Thanks to Montana Cowgirl for picking up my slack…. Senator Jeff Essmann stammered while attempting to answer a question on Aaron Flint’s Voices of Montana this morning.  That question?  “Senator Essmann, have you ever smoked marijuana?” reminded me of the time Rep James Knox (RWNJ-Billings Heights) was asked if he’d ever sold drugs.   Unfortunately, I’m far too busy coordinating the eastern side of the state in the Patients for Reform, Not Repeal quest to actually fulfill voter intent by allowing the actual voters to decide whether Jeff Essmann’s baby, SB 423 is a hot mess or a brilliant piece of legislation.  Hypocrisy reigns in the prohibition crowd….

I don’t really care if Essmann has smoked marijuana nor did I really care if President Clinton was receiving extra-curricular blowjobs, but I don’t appreciate liars- especially those who feed at the public trough. On the other hand, maybe Essmann is just that much of a dork. He could in fact be the only adult human being I’ve ever met who hasn’t tried marijuana… but I doubt it.

Trouble in Senator Essmann’s Bubble



Despite Essmann’s confident assertion that his new black market marijuana law is entirely constitutional, Judge Reynolds today issued a ruling today temporarily striking nearly all of the components of the law the MTCIA  considered unconstitutional, overly burdensome, or entirely unreasonable. The ruling places patient access and provider ability somewhere in the murky area between fully upholding Montana’s new medical marijuana law, SB423 which was set to take effect July 1 and temporarily nullifying the legislation in its entirety. Available here, the ruling in favor of the medical marijuana industry, successfully enjoined several provisions. Three of those provisions were voluntarily ceded by the state during the  legal proceedings last week (patient limits, warrantless searches, and the ban of advertising).  The others are as follows:

The Good

  • Providers can thankfully still charge patients for their medicine. SB 423, cannabis donation legislation, required that providers receive no compensation of any sort.  The judge found this expectation unprecedented.   “The court is unaware of and has not been shown where any person in any other licensed and lawful industry in Montana – be he a barber, an accountant, a lawyer or a doctor – who, providing a legal product or service, is denied the right to charge for that service or is limited in the number of people he or she can serve,” Reynolds wrote.
  • No board of medical examiners investigations for physicians recommending cannabis to 25 or more patients in a 12 month period. SB 423 required doctors to pay for their own mandatory investigations after recommending 25 or more patients in a year.
  • Unannounced searches:  This component was ruled unconstitutional and providers and patients will not be subject to the warrantless searches required by SB 423.
  • Advertising ban: This was ruled unconstitutional and will not take effect July 1.  Caregivers/providers are still able to advertise.  I wouldn’t advertise at this point, however; as I believe laying low is rather important during this transition period.
  • Patient limits: This component has been stricken.  Providers are free to have as many patients as  they desire. (SB 423 called for 3 patients maximum)
The Bad
  • To those on probation:  Probationers’ cards apparently are now void until we are able to obtain the signatures to repeal this law.  The faster we accomplish this feat, the more quickly we can suspend ALL of SB 423, not just the components ruled unconstitutional today.  If you have the resources, I’d suggest looking into a lawsuit to ensure the same health care access as other Montanans.  Keep in mind, I’m not an attorney however and cannot give legal advice.
The Ugly
Here is the real problem….unfortunately, we have a glitch in the transition period between being “caregivers” under I-148 and “providers” under SB 423.
  • There is no current provision in the law protecting cultivators from arrest as of midnight tonight.  It does appear, however; that the judge intends for commercial activity, legal cannabis commerce to commence and essentially this appears to be a bureaucratic oversight. But…. we don’t know.  We are hopeful this legal limbo period will be cleared up by the Department of Health and Human Services, but of course; this isn’t a guarantee.  We cannot tell you that you won’t be arrested.  Some activists are suggesting providers arrive in Helena tomorrow to sign up to become a “provider” rather than a “caregiver”.  Please be very careful in the meantime.
  •   Another wrinkle is that the new law requires “providers” be named as such, meaning there is a possibility that we won’t be able to transition to the new status until patients actually NAME us as their provider, but we are hopeful that the DHHS will assist in any way possible.  There is an allowance for a short transition period in the new law which allows “providers” to bypass the FBI background check and fingerprint requirements if they are accepted as “providers” prior to October.  Anyone intending to become a provider is encouraged to avoid these requirements, unless of course; you feel comfortable essentially sending the federal government notification that you intend to break their laws as well as an address to locate you for arrest. But that’s just me….
What Now?
I’m very confident that we will obtain the signatures required to overturn SB 423 completely but it won’t be easy, especially in a state the size of Montana. We have to do so by September 30. We need all of the help we can get, so if you haven’t yet; please sign up at mtcia.org.  We need assistance at every level- from those only willing to sign the petition to those who will serve as county or house district captains.
Keep in mind, there are MANY Montanans who are neither patients or providers helping with this effort.  Our state government sought to overturn the will of Montana voters (62% of us voted to approve the medical use of cannabis back in 2004) and every Montanan should be concerned about this.
*Participating in this important process does not brand you as a marijuana user/proponent/grower/millionaire (ha).  In fact, I’m not currently a patient or caregiver/provider. I stand to gain nothing from overturning SB 423, yet I’m coordinating the entire Eastern zone (which doesn’t even include the county in which I reside), assisting with management and coordination of gatherers in my county and house district, participating in my area MTCIA committee, running Montanafesto, and mothering my beautiful 13 year old mini-me political activist daughter.  None of us are being paid for our efforts and we are working our asses off to ensure patients have safe consistent access as I believe we all (yes, even Republicans) have a responsibility as human beings to help our disabled and infirm.  We are also working to ensure cultivators have a livelihood, so consider helping us help you. *
 You may not care about marijuana, but what about your second amendment rights?  How will you feel if the government decides to enact onerous legislation restricting your use or possession of firearms?  What if your industry is deemed “immoral” or “not what Montanans voted for”?  How will you feel then? If our legislature can overturn a citizen’s initiative passed by so many voters, what sort of message are we sending our already apathetic youth?  It is high time that Montanans start defending our rights, defending our constitution, and defending those of us who aren’t able to defend ourselves.
We are sorely in need of financial assistance as this was only the beginning of this battle.  We have an incredible legal team, but that sort of representation is very expensive. Due to anxiety over the new law, we’ve had a difficult time fundraising the past few weeks.  Now that we have a partial victory, please consider donating to our cause.  We currently owe our legal team a large sum of money. Click on the “donate” tab at mtcia.org- even if you can only spare a few bucks.  If anyone has any fundraising ideas, non-monetary donations, etc, feel free to contact any member of the mtcia board or to leave a message for me here (montanafesto@live.com). Thanks so much to those who have donated not only financially but with their time and talents.  This is a team effort and we are all making history.  Prohibition has a long history of failure, which side of history are you on?
Any questions?  I will do my best to answer queries in the comments or via email.
RAIDS: **warning**
There are rumors that federal raids will be occurring through the first week in July. I cannot confirm the validity of these claims, but please be careful.  Assert your rights as American citizens.  Barring presentation of a valid warrant, don’t allow law enforcement to enter your premises. 
There is, as I write, a federal and state raid occurring in Montana right now, reportedly in Missoula.  There is reportedly nothing atypical about it- plants are being seized, as well as inventory and equipment.  Don’t regard these growers are criminals- it could just as easily be any one of us.  In fact, it appears the most visible and compliant growers have actually been the ones raided.  There is, however; no pattern to the raids.  Some small growers have been raided because of connections to larger growers.  Most are dispensaries, but some were delivery only.  Don’t think for one moment that you are safe- you aren’t.  
Maintaining a total plant limit of under 100 may be beneficial. Please use common sense…. Be as close to invisible as possible.  No newspaper ads emblazoned with marijuana images, no Jason Christ-like tactics like smoking from a massive water bong on the Capitol lawn.  We are a professional but controversial industry so acceptance requires compromise.  

Pardon me, media…. your bias is showing


Thomas Jefferson once said,

“The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing, but newspapers.”

Jefferson’s assessment certainly rings true in Montana, especially when regarding the growing controversy of Montana’s medical marijuana industry and the 62nd legislature’s de facto repeal of a citizen’s initiative legalizing medical use of cannabis.  Irresponsible and disrespectful newspaper headlines continue to read “Medical pot industry group asks judge to halt law“, “Arguments to conclude in medical pot hearing“, We didn’t elect GOP to ax medical pot“, you get the hint.   Is it so difficult to call it “cannabis”? I can’t recall seeing headlines in the same publications crying “Mr. Smith arrested for slinging oxy/dillies/percs/80s/beans/ludes” or “Dr. Doe raided after shooting smack in surgery”.  Regardless of how the media FEELS about cannabis, their job is to report the news, not exhibit incredible bias.

The media also continues to mislead readers with posts like the following, which was taken from KULR8’s Twitter account.

 

 

 

 

State Senator Jeff Essmann, known for passing the biggest tax increases in Montana history; continues to assert that his legislation removed the profit from the industry, effectively portraying the medical cannabis industry as profit mongering.  Suggesting that the new law makes cannabis providers non-profit entities is a blatant misrepresentation.  The new law essentially eliminates all providers by economically crippling them.  Providers are unable to accept any sort of renumeration for their service.  This means that providers are forced to give away their product, wisdom, time, etc.  Growers cannot be reimbursed for costs incurred with growing (electricity, security, etc), supplies, or equipment. This isn’t a non-profit marijuana law, this is  compulsory NO PAY, medical cannabis donation legislation.This isn’t an attempt to remove the profit, it is a bid to entirely eliminate medical use of cannabis in the state.

From failure to report the actual amount of money seized in federal raids of cannabis providers (in one case, the total was $600 compared to the $1.2 million listed on the warrant) to using slang terms and outright lying to Montanans, our lawmakers and media are complicit and should be held accountable. Do your own research, always question and never blindly accept the media’s version of truth.

I See Dumb People


 

Montana’s GOP renounced the tea party in dramatic fashion earlier today.  Jennifer Olsen, Queen of the tea people was defeated in her quest to become Vice Chair of the Montana GOP.  Incumbent Chair Will Deschamps defeated his less moderate challenger Mark French as well (although I don’t necessarily consider French a tea person- certainly not the same flavor of tea as Olsen anyway).  Jennifer, from Billings; is the co-founder (with her father Eric Olsen) of Montana Shrugged, Tea Party Patriots.  Montana Shrugged is known for its divisive tactics and inconsistency in following the principles it espouses.

Pardon me while I laugh.  Upon viewing the preceding clip, I was initially certain it was a joke.  Seriously.  Never before have I encountered a more contentious person in the Republican party.  Not even A.J. Otjen…. although she often makes me laugh as well.  Representative Cary Smith, of medical marijuana GOP God Squad infamy, nominated Jennifer Olsen for Vice Chair of the MT GOP and in doing so mentioned that she is actively involved with the Young Republicans.  As someone who actually IS actively involved with the Young Republicans, I can attest that there isn’t much farther from the truth…. which isn’t surprising considering the source.

Audrey Walleser, newly elected Chairwoman of the Montana Young Republicans, and current Treasurer of the Yellowstone Young Republicans issued the following statement:

“Ms. Olsen on numerous occasions has slandered and libeled the Young Republicans.  She has shown nothing but contempt and disrespect for the Montana Young Republicans and their missions and goals.  She has also never attended a YR event nor paid dues to any YR club or organization, therefore is not a member of either the Yellowstone Young Republicans or the Montana Young Republicans.”

I offer the following screenshots as evidence of her loyalty to the Young Republicans, apparently fighting for our principles is easier than living up to them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contrast the preceding screenshots with this one:

 

 

 

I am a big fan of individual liberty and personal responsibility as well as fiscal constraint, all principles that are typically associated with the tea people.  I don’t abhor everything Tea, my problem is primarily with Montana Shrugged- more specifically its leaders. Although they claim to be a patriotic force- and one to be reckoned with- independent from the GOP, two of their three leaders are now members of the executive board of the Yellowstone County Republican Central Committee.  Yellowstone County is a bastion of RWNJ ideology- most members of the GOP God Squad call that area home- Representatives James Knox, Cary Smith, Tom McGillvray, and Ken Peterson as well as Senators Jeff Essmann, Ed Walker…. and those are off the top of my head.  Forgive me if I’ve forgotten any key prohibition players in Yellowstone County.

It is no secret that I’m disillusioned with both the tea people and the current hypocritical majority of the Montana Republican Party and I doubt anyone would accuse me of being a uniting force in the party these days.  However, I do believe we need to either expand our tent or distance ourselves from the uneducated extremists in the party or we will face blowing defeats in 2012 elections.

Mainstream Republicans have to know that the Tea “party” gave us a group of legislators responsible for the most ridiculous legislative session in recent history.  Some of their legislation was purely symbolic, many bills were blatantly unconstitutional and some of the profoundly flippant legislation bordered on obsessive…. all of which obscured any successes of the GOP in 2011.

Repealing the “Black Market” Bill: A Preliminary Guide to Process and Procedure


Confused about the status of SB 423, Senator Jeff Essmann’s bill to eliminate safe access to medical cannabis in Montana? The following provides background into Montana’s initiative, referendum, and repeal process.

SB 423 Monitoring: Montana Marijuana Act Initiative Referendum to Overturn Law Prepared for the Children, Families, Health, and Human Services Interim Committee

Background

Within days after the 2011 legislative session ended, opponents of a bill that repeals Montana’s Medical Marijuana Act and replaces it with new provisions announced that they would try to place the new law before the voters in November 2012. The effort centers on a little-used practice in which Montanans may try to gather enough signatures from registered voters to place a law enacted by the Legislature on the ballot. If they succeed, voters then decide whether to retain or reject the law. At issue in this case is Senate Bill 423, which replaces the existing Medical Marijuana Act with more stringent provisions for individuals who use marijuana for debilitating medical conditions, the physicians who provide written certifications involving such use, and the individuals who grow or manufacture marijuana and related products. The Montana Cannabis Industry Association (Association) is sponsoring the proposal. The group hopes to gather enough signatures to not only place the law on the ballot, but also to suspend its implementation until the November 2012 election. How the Process Works The Montana Constitution allows for both an initiative process and a referendum process. Most voters tend to think of an initiative as an idea generated by a private group, which then gathers signatures to place the proposed law on the ballot. For example, three initiatives qualified for the November 2010 ballot — one to reduce interest rates charged by so-called “pay-day lenders”, another to prevent the imposition of a real estate transfer tax, and a third to change how some hunting licenses are granted. On the other hand, voters tend to think of referendums as a law that the Legislature passes but puts before the voters before it goes into effect, to make sure voters agree with the law. But the Montana Constitution also allows for a process in which voters may place an act of the Legislature on the ballot as a referendum if interested parties submit a petition that is signed by at least 5% of the registered voters in at least 34 House districts and by 5% of the voters statewide. The total number required is based on the number of votes cast for governor statewide and by House district in 2008. The proposal must go through the review process required for all ballot measures, including:                                                                                                                                   • submission of the proposed ballot statements and text to the Secretary of State;                • review of the ballot statements and text by the Legislative Services Division;                      • rejection, acceptance, or modification of the Legislative Services Division recommendations by the sponsor;                                                                                          • the sponsor’s submission the final ballot statements and text to the Secretary of State;    • review of the proposed ballot language by the Attorney General’s Office, including an opportunity for public comment; and                                                                                       • final issuance of the petition by the Secretary of State after the Attorney General’s Office has completed its review and found that the petition is “legally sufficient”. After those steps are completed, the sponsor may begin collecting signatures. An act referred to the ballot through the initiative process remains in effect until the election is held unless enough signatures are obtained to suspend it. That would occur if the Secretary of State certifies that at least 15% of the registered voters in each of at least 51 House districts signed the petition.

Timeline for the SB 423 Petition

The Secretary of State accepted the petition from the Association on May 12, starting the clock ticking on the various timelines for review.

. To date, the following events have occurred:

• May 26: The Legislative Services Division completed its review of the ballot statements and text and provided the sponsor with suggested changes.                                                 • May 31: The sponsor responded to the Legislative Services Division comments.               • June 1: The sponsor submitted the revised ballot statements and text to the Secretary of State.                                                                                                                                        • June 2: The Attorney General’s Office received the ballot language and text for review.    • June 6: The Attorney General’s Office asked the Governor’s Office of Budget and Program Planning to estimate the fiscal impact of SB 423. The Budget Office has 10 days to prepare a fiscal note. The Attorney General’s Office must complete its review by July 5. If it approves the proposal, the proposed ballot issue will be returned to the Secretary of State. That office will then provide the approved petition to the sponsor, who may begin gathering signatures at that time. Signed petitions may be submitted to county election officials until September 30. The county officials must certify the signatures and file the signed petitions and certified totals with the Secretary of State no later than October 28. If enough verified signatures have been gathered, the Secretary of State will certify to the Governor that the initiative referendum will appear on the November 2012 ballot and/or has been suspended. Petition sponsors must gather and submit 24,337 verified signatures, including signatures representing 5% of the registered voters in each of at least 34 House districts, to place the measure on the ballot. If they meet that threshold, they may then attempt to gather additional signatures to suspend the law until the November 2012 vote. Anywhere from 31,238 to 43,247 signatures are needed to suspend the law, depending on the House districts in which the signatures are gathered. If sponsors meet the requirements for either step sooner than Sept. 30 and enough verified signatures are on file with the Secretary of State’s Office before October 28, the measure could be certified for the ballot or be suspended before those deadlines occur.

To read legal filings thus far, click here.

To donate to this endeavor, visit the MTCIA‘s website.  Funding is critical as our legal dream team isn’t cheap.

Become the change you want to see: Sign up to help here.  Whether you are interested in being a county or house district captain, a signature gatherer, a notary, even if you simply would like to sign the petition, we would appreciate your help.  Our board, zone coordinators and committees are donating their already scarce  time and could use assistance.

I’m coordinating the Eastern Zone and personally need some help in the following countes:  Valley, Carter, Powder River, Prairie, Dawson, Garfield, McCone, Petroleum, Phillips, Fallon and Carbon.  Also in House Districts: 30,32,35,38,39, and 41. Please contact me ASAP if you can assist.  

Shrugging off the Tea Party Takeover of Montana’s Republican Party


Apparently the  tea people takeover of the Yellowstone Central Committee wasn’t quite enough for the Queen of the Tea People, Jennifer Olsen, the Ken Miller for Governor Campaign Facebook Administrator and founder of Montana Shrugged, Tea Party Patriots.  Check out a recent post from Ms. Olsen:

VOTE for me! for vice-chair of the state republican central committee in June!
So…..I have decided to run for vice-chair of the state republican central committee. I have a lot of ideas that can help unify conservative voters across the state of Montana and I would appreciate your vote at the convention in Butte in June…
So…..I have decided to run for vice-chair of the state republican central committee. I have a lot of ideas that can help unify conservative voters across the state of Montana and I would appreciate your vote at the convention in Butte in June. As one told me, the job is what you make of it, and I’d like to see the Republican party of Montana do BIG things. Including of course, winning every seat up in 2012. Who’s with me?Working on my slogan…..but it’ll be good!  
No matter what my slogan…..I want to win in 2012!  Not just for me but for the future of our state…..and our country.  
You can count on me to be a ‘doer’.  I would appreciate your vote in June!

 

Remember this though?  Eric Olsen, In February of this year, co-founder of Montana Shrugged and Jennifer’s father; said “We are equal opportunity haters.  We don’t like Republicans, we don’t like Democrats.  We are Americans working on American issues.” It does certainly seem odd that nearly every core member of Montana Shrugged is now an officer in the Yellowstone County Republican Central Committee, but perhaps it is only a coincidence. Always controversial, the group seems thrives on publicity, whether positive or not.
Although Ms Olsen sends out mass emails from Montana Shrugged, she also claims that her personal opinions aren’t necessarily those of Montana Shrugged’s. Considering she is a co-founder of the organization, one may assume she aligns herself with the same values, and after all, she was using the organization’s email address, not her personal one.   A complaint filed against the group for their partisan campaign and election activities was dismissed late last year due primarily to media exceptions in Montana law.  The Office of Political Practices is keeping a close eye on the group, according to sources.
Many of Montana’s most recent session’s freshman lawmakers are sympathetic to the tea people’s cause and although they consider this year’s session to be a resounding success, some of their own party disagree.
“You are scaring the you-know-what out of them with this kind of talk,” veteran Republican lawmaker Walt McNutt said. “This needs to stop and stop now. Stop scaring our constituents and stop letting us look like a bunch of buffoons.”
It is also worth noting that approval ratings of the 2011 legislative session hovered below the 15% mark, so legislators who consider it a success were apparently using completely different criteria than mainstream Montana.   Perhaps accomplishing thoughtful draconian marijuana reform repeal contributed to the legislature’s confidence in themselves. After all, there was Senate Majority Leader Jeff Essmann’s strange speech at Yellowstone County’s Lincoln Reagan dinner….  after an extensive introduction befitting of a king, the arrogant and aloof Essmann read a letter from a medical marijuana patient who essentially told Essmann that the senator had failed Montanans and succeeded only in destroying an industry.  Essmann’s response, naturally; was “Mission Accomplished”.  Evidently, job killing is now a tea people-approved activity.
Good luck to Jennifer Olsen in her quest to take over the Montana GOP. Perhaps readers would like to suggest some pithy campaign slogans for Ms. Olsen.  Should you require some inspiration, I’ve included a few screenshots from her freedom-loving Facebook account.
Should the screenshots not provide quite enough material to choose from, an automated slogan generator is located here.

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.

A Greed Lecture from a Politician/Attorney….. and one from ME.


In today’s Billings Gazette, Senator Jeff Essmann, sponsor of SB 423 “The Black Market Bill” said:

“Montana voters should be concerned about any group that is selling a schedule-one controlled substance that can raise $50,000 in less than a week,” he said, referring to federal law. “I don’t believe Montana voters wanted to have that kind of activity in the state of Montana.  It should be very obvious that this is no longer about the medicine or the therapy. This is about the money for these people.”

“This is about the money for these people”……. I love being lectured by a politician and attorney about greed.  He is concerned that the cannabis industry could raise $50,000 in less than a week.  What exactly would that entail, I wonder.

  • Each of Montana’s approximately 30,000 patients could donate $1.67
  • Each of Montana’s nearly 5000 caregivers could donate $10
  • Each of our GOP legislators could have done their job at the biennial legislative session and we wouldn’t need the services of attorney Jim Goetz.

I find it so interesting that Essmann mentions that marijuana is a controlled schedule I substance.  Considering he is a fan of ignoring the federal government on wolf protection and Obamacare implementation, one wonders why he is so concerned about the Controlled Substances Act. It is the responsibility and duty of the state Legislature and our governor to protect our state and its citizens from federal intrusion. If our elected officials refuse to defend our citizens from the unconstitutional overreach of the federal government, they need to be replaced.  Our most recent legislative session was led by a Republican/Tea people backed majority focused almost solely on invasive, oppressive bigger government and our populist Governor Schweitzer has expressed his intentions to “hold his nose” as he allows SB 423 to become law.  Oh my.

While I am offended at the implication by Essmann that we are greedy, I’m also reminded that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Most of those sending you emails, blogging, holding meetings and conference calls are NOT paid representatives of the industry.  They are donating their time to this cause and deserve our thanks. I am not comfortable asking anyone for money and I am well aware that most people in the industry are only one harvest away from bankruptcy. I also know very well the costs associated with this business, but unless we are prepared to make unemployment and insolvency part of our plans for the VERY near future, we owe it to everyone involved to put some money where our mouths are. Posting Facebook rants may be liberating, but it isn’t what we need to survive.

I’m begging not only patients, caregivers, and Montanans to donate to this cause, but AMERICANS.  There is far more at stake than simply the medical use of cannabis in our great state, our very liberty is under fire. While disguised as a reform/regulatory bill, anyone who has read SB 423 knows it intends to eliminate the use of medical cannabis in Montana which is in opposition to the will of Montana voters who approved I-148 by a landslide in 2004.

Please go to http://www.mtcia.org/ to assist in preserving Montana’s liberty.  Protect us from the tyrannical religious zealots we unfortunately elected to represent us.   Our goal is $50,000 by the end of today and we are currently short $15,000.  The amount is necessary to retain the legal services of attorney Jim Goetz. On behalf of caregivers and patients statewide, Goetz intends to employ legal actions initially delaying the new law’s implementation as well as  eventually striking down the law in its entirety.  He is the right attorney for this endeavor and we need your help.  Please donate whatever you can, whether it is a significant amount or a few dollars.  The entire nation is watching Montana right now, let’s show them our strength!

Montana Governor Brands “Black Market Bill” (SB 423) Unconstitutional


In a surprising move (surprising to me at least), Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer called Senate Majority Leader Jeff Essmann’s SB 423, “unconstitutional on its face”.  He expressed his intention to issue an amendatory veto on the legally defective legislation as he doesn’t believe it could survive a court battle in its current form   The legislation, which passed Montana’s House and Senate earlier this week has been nicknamed the “black market bill” by opponents who believe eliminating the medical cannabis industry will invite dangerous criminal elements engaged in drug activity to again control the supply of marijuana in Montana.

In an interview with Lee Newspapers State Bureau, Schweitzer was highly critical of the GOP-led 2011 Legislature, expressing his disgust for their “squandering”  of Montana’s 90 day biennial legislative session.  He asked,

“Why don’t you just pass something that works, that’s constitutional and that can survive the test of time?” he asked.

A bipartisan interim committee, after months of work, inspired HB 68, sponsored by Diane Sands (D- Missoula).  While nowhere near perfect legislation, it is difficult if not impossible to find patients or growers who would prefer Essmann’s bill to HB 68, which was tabled in committee.  A re-written version of SB 154, a gray bill sponsored by Republican Dave Lewis (and largely preferred by patients and growers) also received little support from the repeal-driven prohibitionist Republicans.  Referring to HB 68,  Governor Schweitzer said ,

“They threw that in the garbage and now they’re going to send me this (SB) 423, which everybody’s who’s read it says, ‘Oh yeah, it’s unconstitutional,’ ” he said.  “The bill as written is not going to survive the courts.”

Montana’s governor, who recently was featured in national news stories for calling Republicans in the state legislature “Bat-crap crazy” and for registering a “VETO” cattle brand with the state (with which he last week ceremoniously killed bills he considered foolish or unconstitutional) isn’t fond of a requirement in Essmann’s bill that requires Montana’s medical cannabis patients to carry their state licensing card with them at all times, regardless of whether or not they are in possession of marijuana.  Patients are also subject to warrantless searches of their homes at any time and names and addresses of those in the program are provided to local law enforcement officials.   Schweitzer believes such provisions to be violations of the 4th amendment, which protects Americans from unlawful searches and seizures as well as the  federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA.

if you’re taking OxyContin or penicillin or for God’s sake, even aspirin, that is your own personal health care records,” he said. But HB423 is “demanding” that the fact that someone is using medical marijuana and “be turned over to law enforcement in every town.

Schweitzer too acknowledged the black market appeal of the legislation,

“There’s another problem with it, and I think it’s a fundamental problem,” Schweitzer said. “Under this bill, I will guar-an-dang-tee-you, that there will be more illegal marijuana (that) makes it to the alley under this proposal than we currently have because now you’re going to have 4,000, 5,000, 6,000 people growing their own. It’s not possible to monitor all of them.”

“I mean does someone with a straight face think you can have 5,000 people growing their own and none of it makes it to high schools or to college dorm rooms?” he said.

A severability clause was included in the bill, which ensures that, in the event of a court ruling striking components of the legislation, other parts of the bill remain viable.  Because of its inclusion, Schweitzer believes that Essmann and other Republicans are well aware that the bill is unconstitutional.

“Why don’t you just pass something that works, that’s constitutional and that can survive the test of time?” he asked.

That sounds far too easy for the TEA people-inspired Montana GOP, however.  This shouldn’t be about politics, it should be about doing the right thing for the segment of the population who Montana’s original medical cannabis law was designed to protect.  In efforts to eradicate all state-sanctioned medical use of cannabis, Montana’s GOP lawmakers for the past 90 days have resorted to tears, lies, and dramatic stories intended to convince the legislative body and public that our state is now considered a “source nation, like Columbia” our youth are prostituting themselves for cannabis, and that caregivers are selling marijuana in middle and high schools across the state.  Oddly enough, there have been no arrests made for any of those particular crimes.

Sponsor of the bill, Jeff Essmann cited recent correspondence with federal officials who “clarified” federal policy  in his bid to save our state from the evils of cannabis.  No word on whether he used such correspondence to ensure Montana is in compliance with federal law regarding wolves or implementation of federal health care reforms however.  We are all aware that the federal government knows best anyway, right?

Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.”
– Federal Bureau of Narcotics Chief Harry J. Anslinger, 1929

Republicans in Montana have been hammered by those on the right this session as well as the typical lefty critics after various testimonies  in reference to  blow-dart murders, appropriate state prison sentences for gay recruitment, and the dangers of punishing DUIs were publicized on numerous news programs. While Republicans across the nation- including several GOP presidential nomination hopefuls- are advocating sweeping  marijuana law reforms, Montana’s Republicans are determined to move backwards as they promote their dangerously myopic “morality” agenda.

President Obama’s Audacity of Dope


By now it is clear to most Americans that many of Barack Obama’s campaign promises were nothing more than hollow rhetoric.  Obama’s failure to deliver is a relief to most conservatives who weren’t excited about the prospects of net neutrality, higher taxes, and cap & trade legislation while Obama’s base is also livid with him because he didn’t fight hard enough for single payer health care or ending tax cuts for the wealthy, and he also failed to reform our immigration policy.  While shocking to virtually nobody, progressives expected more of Obama.  After all, he had also promised an unprecedented level of transparency.

Obama appears to be particularly hypocritical in his administration’s prosecutions of medical marijuana.  Obama made very specific promises regarding federal prosecution of medical marijuana facilities in states with medical marijuana laws in place.

The White House, in 2009 offered the following statement:

“The President believes that federal resources should not be used to
circumvent state laws, and as he continues to appoint senior
leadership to fill out the ranks of the federal government, he expects
them to review their policies with that in mind.”

Despite numerous vows to the contrary, only days after his inauguration, Obama allowed the DEA to raid multiple medical grow facilities in California and other medical marijuana states.  Since Obama took office, his administration has engaged in over 100 aggressive medical cannabis raids– in comparison to the Bush administration’s total of just over 200 raids…. in EIGHT entire years. When not engaging in raids, the Obama administration terrorizes medical marijuana patients and businesses via the IRS.   Americans for Safe Access, a medical cannabis advocacy organization,  has given Obama a failing grade for his medical cannabis policies.

It appears that Obama considers the cannabis-friendly crowd to be a  politically disposable bloc of voters, and maybe he is correct.  I suspect, however; that if Montanans come out of their cannabis closet- even if only to vote- that our state legislature will look VERY different in the 2013 legislative session. The question is how to effectively mobilize them- doing so has traditionally been a challenge.

Smaller government is a core belief of the Republican party- one would expect that allowing citizens, with their physicians, to choose the health therapy they prefer would fit into the smaller government component, but that isn’t always the case.  While the Republican-led Montana legislature should certainly be blamed for the fate of medical cannabis in the state (a repeal bill masquerading as a reform bill-  Senator Jeff Essmann’s SB 423- is likely on Governor Brian Schweitzer’s desk today), not all conservatives support a nanny-state government.  Milton Friedman’s criticism of the failed war on drugs was based on his devotion to the principles of limited government.  William Buckley, founder of the conservative National Review, supported legalization and mocked silly fear-based rhetoric utilized by prohibitionists.  Glenn Beck, Pat Buchanan, and 2012 GOP Presidential hopefuls  Ron Paul, and Gary Johnson also support legalization.

While Democrats have traditionally been credited with advocating cannabis reform, Obama has shown us via actions and policy that the Democrat Party does not necessarily support cannabis reform endeavors either.   We all need to ask our politicians- regardless of party affiliation and prior to primary elections- specifically how they feel about issues important to us all.

Montana’s SB 423: GOP Plan to Purge the “Scourge”


Dear Montana State Senators and Representatives,

I urge you all to oppose SB 423.

Essmann’s SB 423 is anti-patient. 

The legislation repeals Montana’s medical cannabis law while masquerading as an innocent and  necessary reformation bill.  While Montanans may not have intended for the law to create a thriving industry, they did not intend for the law to be overturned in a political move by the majority party either.  This legislation will eliminate legal access to a safe and effective substance for many Montanans and endangers access for the remainder. Patients also are forced to choose only one method of ingestion- smoking/vaporizing or edible products.  We are a patient-driven industry- each patient has a different symptom or type of pain.  At different times of the day, different effects are desired, eliminating their right to use cannabis as needed is cruel. SB 423 harms the very people that the law was initially created to benefit.

Essmann’s SB 423 is anti-jobs.

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 your personal idea of morality.

Essman’s SB 423 is anti-capitalism.

The party of smaller government and free markets is proposing regulations that drastically limit patients’ access to cannabis on every level.  No longer will patients have access to a variety of strains, in fact; most patients will no longer have a caregiver at all.  Because caregivers are limited to a maximum of 3 patients, most patients will be losing theirs July 1, 2011. Patients in many cases are too ill or otherwise unequipped to cultivate their own medicine.  By essentially forcing them to either grow their own or locate someone lacking experience but willing to do so for them, they are at high risk of being unable to treat their symptoms.  Growing cannabis isn’t like growing a philodendron. It has very specific requirements, and deviation from a standard of care provided by an experienced grower has a high potential for disaster (fertilization, infestation, fungus, etc) In addition to the strict patient limits, the caregiver not only cannot profit from providing the service and product to their patients, they must operate at a loss as growers cannot even receive reimbursement for the expenses related to growing the plants.  Electricity, nutrients, seeds, soil or other media, pots, ventilation, CO2…. the expenses are significant as is the level of attention required to successfully cultivate medical grade cannabis.

When a ruling class of intellectuals, bureaucrats and social planners (yes, that would be YOU) decide what people the want or what is good for society and then use the coercive power of the State to regulate, tax, and redistribute the wealth of those who work for a living, controlling both the supply and the demand side of industry…. sounds a lot like socialism to me.

Essmann’s SB 423 is hypocritical.

When it comes to wolves, firearms, Real ID, or Obamacare, our party is eager to assert our tenth amendment rights but in discussion of cannabis, we conveniently and selectively use the federal ban of schedule I substances to comply with our “moral” agenda.  I think we all know that the constitution does not give the federal government the right to impose such bans- after all, prohibiting the use of alcohol required a constitutional amendment, why is cannabis any different? You either want smaller government or you do not. You cannot have it both ways.

What do I know?  I’m just a lowly Republican cannabis caregiver. I haven’t a clue of the demands required of serving in the state legislature, so consider this.  How would you feel if suddenly the cannabis industry was in charge of creating the rules and regulations of the Montana’s legislative branch?  Instead of educating ourselves on the legislative process, we chose our own path, an ignorant course with little regard for the individuals affected by our decisions.  When you tried to voice your opinions about our agenda, we either ignored you entirely or patronized you publicly. We called you, your colleagues and staffers derogatory names and made sweeping judgments on your character and sanity.

In the words of Rep Rob Cook (R-Conrad) “I’m going to ask that we take a minute here, to reflect on our own hypocrisy.”

Thanks to each of you for the sacrifice of serving in our legislature.  I would appreciate a “no” vote on this legislation.  Thank you for your time and consideration of this matter.

Real Montana Scourge: Medical Marijuana or ‘Moral’ Majority


You may recall from last month, Montana’s 2011 Legislature earned failing grades in a Billings Gazette poll in which Montana voters were asked to judge the performance of the legislative body, led by Montana Republicans. In fact, only 24% gave the legislature a positive rating.  Judging from recent events, I’m left to wonder if perhaps they are striving for a new low.

The Republicans, by ignoring constituents and engaging in the sort of behavior conservatives  typically would associate with Nancy Pelosi have alienated even the most loyal supporters this session.   Our legislature is truly out of hand, as evidenced by my frequent anti-hypocrisy posts.  There is something very wrong when I cannot find even one liberal who is more deserving of criticism than those in the leadership of my own party. The Republicans, with a few exceptions; are downright obsessed with meddling in the private affairs of Montanans. Don’t forget about the the national coverage our state has received for frivolous legislation and unbelievable comments made by our GOP legislators…. this situation is unreal.  I am personally embarrassed.

* Below is a clip of Representative Ellie Hill of Missoula boldly defending the medical cannabis industry and patients prior to Representative Dave Howard of Park City, with contempt in his voice, referring to marijuana as a poison and of course, a “scourge”.  Conveniently, Howard also manages to casually blame the Governor Brian Schweitzer for the legislature’s refusal inability to pass thoughtful legislation regulating the medical cannabis industry- because the governor hasn’t “told ANYBODY what he plans to do” with HB 161.

*Representative Ken Peterson of Billings publicly stated that although the Supreme Court of the United States as well as the Montana Supreme Court has ruled a Montana law criminalizing homosexuals to be unconstitutional, he believes there are at least two violations of the law he would consider enforceable. The first of those criminal acts is the “recruitment” of non-gays by gays. I never realized when hanging out with our homosexual friends we were in so much danger. Thanks for letting me know, Rep. Peterson! He also believes that the Supreme Court decisions apply only to homosexual acts behind closed doors, so any public display of homosexuality would be fair game for potential enforcement by the MONTaliban officers.  Read all about Rep. Peterson’s raging homophobia here.

Reverend Harris Himes has been making the rounds- from testifying on behalf of Montana Eagle Forum, his congregation (yes, he is a pastor) and God.  He lectured committee members about repealing the medical use of marijuana and in favor of discrimination of gays, at one point even declaring that homosexuals should be put to death.  Himes finally explains exactly WHY the use and cultivation of marijuana should be prohibited here.  His proximity to God lends credibility and relevance to the pastor’s testimony.

The bigoted legislators and self-righteous individuals mentioned above do not represent the Montana in which I have spent my entire life and if they are considered moral creatures, I’m content being lumped in with the “scourge”.

Dear Mr Zabawa or Milburn, Essmann, Howard, Knox, and company


UPDATE: Zabawa’s testimony on SB 423 today can be viewed here. This morning another of our bloggers received a Facebook friend request from “Mercedes Benz- Billings”, an auto dealership in part owned by one of our favorite prohibitionists, Brother Steve Zabawa.  A source within one of Zabawa’s businesses confirmed that the Facebook page indeed belonged to Zabawa so she sent a…. factually scathing message in response to the request.  After I posted her words to Zabawa on our blog’s Facebook page earlier today, she posted a comment clarifying the post.  She said that she’d received a polite response from the dealership, from a “product specialist” who claimed to monitor the page.  Although making it clear he understood his employer’s motivations and respected his right to express his opinions, he assured her that not everyone within the dealership was aligned with Zabawa’s agenda.  Because the friend request apparently did not originate with Steve Zabawa, I pondered whether or not he’d ever see her words.  After much (not really) thought, in the case that Zabawa was indeed shielded from the criticism, I took the liberty of posting it here,  utilizing , in vain, our public forum in hopes that Zabawa would notice, take heed, and engage his opponents in a productive discussion.  While the letter was written to Zabawa, the intended target could have been nearly any Republican currently serving in our state legislature as well.  I challenge any puritanical republican to address the concerns mentioned in the following letter:


Nicole French April 6 at 2:08pm
Dear Mr Zabawa, 

Considering your opposition to personal liberties, obsession with control and devotion to driving the legislative process in the opposite direction voters desire, I am puzzled by your motives in requesting my friendship.

It appears a vast majority of your Facebook friends are politically active Republicans, so initially I assumed you were innocently seeking more local political connections, but I suspect your request isn’t so innocent. Do your liberty-minded Republican friends support your determined effort to not only overturn legislation created and approved by our state’s voters, but force seriously ill Montanans to make the unfathomable choice to either participate in a crime or needlessly suffer from a debilitating condition? You may be surprised.

Whether you are aware or not, I have defended your organization in public forums on countless occasions- primarily on principle as I believe each party involved in a conflict deserves an opportunity to dispel false accusations. Isn’t that odd? Although I do not know you personally and generally am opposed to the sort of licentious behavior of which your establishment is regularly accused, I am a principled and honorable human being, always willing to participate in open and honest discussion- which is where you and I obviously differ.

What I find most astounding about your group’s opposition to the creation of a regulated industry is your continual refusal to participate in any sort of pro-active conflict resolution discussion. Although many consider you and the other group members to be truly moronic, I disagree. Your recurrent fallacious testimony quickly elucidates any possibility of a naive ignorance.

I will overlook your unwillingness to acknowledge science and patient testimonials for a moment to examine political principles. Republicans fight for smaller government, a free market, retaining more of what we make, and especially liberty. Although I’m not a cannabis user, I appreciate the freedom to choose, with my physician, alternative forms of treating illnesses. Our federal government runs Amtrak, the US Postal Service, Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid…. the list of insolvent entities goes on and on. The FDA has approved a litany of drugs that kill Americans on a daily basis, but yet so many are comforted by the federal government’s approval or disapproval of substances. It is astounding that any intelligent American would appreciate federal intervention in any manner beyond the power granted by our Constitution.

Liberty is integral to being an American and especially so to many Montanans. Our voters approved the use of this substance and overturning their wishes is truly reprehensible. If this truly “isn’t what Montanans voted for”, those citizens would place reform or repeal on the ballot. To date, no one has successfully done so, so I adhere to the belief that what we have now, however flawed it may be, is closer to voters’ intentions than an outright repeal.

In testimony of marijuana opponents, I hear of frequent abuses of the current statutes, exploitation of patients in pursuit of profits, use in schools, illegal diversion of medical cannabis, the list is endless. What I fail to understand is why those perpetrators are not as a result, arrested. The industry begged regulation and especially for enforcement. Three previous legislative sessions failed to address the concerns and the “frequent abuses” have apparently gone unpunished. Patients who legitimately, effectively, and safely treat their conditions with cannabis are instead the targets of your mission.

Laws aren’t created to provide a substitute for competent parenting and historically prohibition primarily benefits criminals. Actual drug dealers, the predatory sort, not the state-licensed law-abiding providers you are complaining about today, will return to their profitable businesses- without paying taxes, hiring employees, or adhering to any sort of ethical protocol. The dangers to our communities and kids presented by prescription drug and alcohol abuse far surpass those created by allowing legal medical use of cannabis. For this reason, I’m shocked you would continue this obsession while ignoring the most dire dangers facing our state.

We owe our children more than the false “safety” that destroying an industry may provide. We owe them the truth. The truth is, overturning a citizens initiative is an assault on our Constitution and rights. The topic itself, however discomforting you consider it, should not determine that the right of the people to self-govern is void. Montana’s constitution does not define the right to citizens initiative to be inclusive of only what is palatable to the elected.
Montana voters spoke. The governing body has now decided to use the power of position to arrogate. This is a wrongful use of power and is symbolic of the underlining reason the people’s distrust of all things government has become so palpable.

Perhaps your understanding of the long-term repercussions of such action would require a personal stake in it. For your sake, I truly hope that you and your loved ones are never presented with as dire of consequences as you are seeking for Montana’s infirm.

Upon receiving this message, should you decide to address my concerns, I will accept your offer of friendship. You and I won’t necessarily ever agree on this particular issue, but we likely would on virtually all others. I hope, through not only education but by setting a positive example, that someday the vast conflict surrounding this particular substance is reduced substantially.

Sincerely,
Nicole French

Truth is Treason in the Empire of Lies UPDATED with VIDEO


I am well aware that no politician is likely to ever please me on every issue at every opportunity, but I take no pleasure in this post.  I never dreamed that Senator Chas Vincent, R- Libby, would deviate from intentions expressed in public statements, he simply doesn’t strike me as the type.  Maybe i simply set the bar too high after hearing he leans libertarian, expecting someone with the integrity and consistency of Dr Ron Paul, which isn’t quite fair.  To put it bluntly, I’m very disappointed, not only in Senator Vincent, but in most of our legislature and especially the Republican Party.  In a few short months, we’ve abandoned all campaign promises of smaller government and more freedom in exchange for an agenda of power and control.

Since the session began, I’ve watched the GOP work hard so gay people are considered just a little less than human by utilizing hateful bigoted people who under the God- umbrella can get away with statements about putting them to death simply to ensure we can still retain the unconstitutional laws declaring their behavior felonious.  Instead of working with patients, growers and  physicians, the GOP went in their own direction, choosing arbitrary numbers as limits, regulating not only all access, but also supply and demand of a medicine in our new marijuana socialism game.  Instead of fixing a law to benefit patients and business, we wasted time on ridiculous legislation to force the US to leave the United Nations and to return to the gold standard, but now it is clear that the GOP is entirely heartless.  Drunk on our own power, seeking more control and regulation, we are a party I don’t even recognize.  I commend Sen Murphy for his courageous stand in opposition to the Republicans in the legislature and I must admit I was impressed by the testimony of Sen. Wanzenried and Sen Gillan, who of course are democrats.

Don’t get me started on dishonesty.  Montana’s legislators are well aware that hearings are live streamed and later available in the archives- so one would think they’d pay greater detail to honesty while testifying in legislative hearings. They know very well that someone could easily use their words against them.  According to the Billings Gazette:

Sen. Chas Vincent, R-Libby, who previously opposed the repeal bill and helped write the repeal-and-overhaul bill, said he felt compelled to vote for the repeal after what happened Wednesday.

He talked about drug abuse in schools and contended that organized crime is involved in medical marijuana here.

“I have no choice,” he said. “I did all that I could. I’d encourage everyone in my caucus and the few of you that are not satisfied with the status quo to give (HB161) the green light.”

Poor Senator Vincent appeared somewhat reluctant,  frustrated and at times almost desperate as he lamented the wasted time spent on Essmann’s reform legislation as well as the Senate game-playing.  He also said:

“Talk about political suicide, for crying out loud,” he said. “My county didn’t even vote for medical marijuana. It went down in my county. I’m in the minority in my caucus, and I’m going against my base for what I believe to be a principled decision.” VIDEO here

When  he informed us that his district, SD1 had rejected I-148 – voting against it in 2004,  I sincerely sympathized with his position in the lonely minority and almost felt guilty about it.  His vote did disappoint me but I found it difficult to remain angry at him because this was, after all; his job, doing the best by his constituents, who apparently weren’t supportive of our cause.  I couldn’t expect much more from him.

My brain doesn’t take many breaks.  I truly wasn’t aware of SD1’s opposition of  Initiative 148 until Vincent’s testimony, so I decided to determine just how many others I wasn’t aware of.  The following is a screenshot from 2004’s elections with final tallies on I-148 for Vincent’s district, Lincoln County.

Clearly, Lincoln County did NOT reject I-148. 61% approved the measure.

This sounds like a completely different Senator Vincent than the one portrayed here, in an article titled “Republican State Senator Stands Out in the Pack, Opposes Repeal of Medical Marijuana“.  Also in the article:

“I am not going to support the repeal,” said Republican Sen. Chas Vincent, a 33-year-old former logger who holds a key vote in the judiciary committee. “I believe that cannabis has real, beneficial impacts to those who need to use it for medicine.”

I’m going to give Vincent the benefit of the doubt about his knowledge of his senate district’s position of  I- 148 in 2004, but just this once.  Perhaps he was nervous or is clueless about his district.  Surely the guilt involved with abandoning principles to appease party leadership making the best decision for his constituents wouldn’t inspire lies  in effort to convince us of his sincerity, right?  Because Vincent’s most compelling argument for me was the one that we now know isn’t true, I am no longer willing to forgive his vote.   I have a  difficult time believing that any member of this particular session’s leadership is capable of convincing a principled senator that the courageous vote is the one with the rest of the party.  Where is that libertarian streak we keep hearing about?  I know that Ron Paul without a doubt wouldn’t have voted to repeal Montana’s medical marijuana law.

Dramatic Senate Standoff Provides Beacon of Hope to Drug Dealers Across the Nation


Safe Community, Safe Kids asked Montana "who will stand up for your kids?" I hope they enjoy their answer.

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.

Spoiled Speaker Milburn Punishes Detractors, Montanans Suffer


Mike Milburn, Montana’s Republican Speaker of the House is reportedly angry with the Senate Judiciary Committee for killing his precious little bill, HB161 and has been clearly seeking retribution in a rather juvenile manner.

Friday morning, as many are aware, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on Jeff Essmann’s anti-free market bill to destroy the medical cannabis industry and significantly increase the healthcare costs and risks of thousands of Montanans, in part by forcing patients to obtain expensive, frequent and unnecessary MRI and CT tests.  Generally, hearings on medical marijuana are held in rooms on the first floor of the Capitol because it is significantly easier patients with debilitating medical conditions to access the room and many handicapped people typically testify at the hearings on this issue and accessing the third floor of the Capitol is rather difficult for many of them.  These hearings have historically attracted hundreds of patients who want their voice heard and the first floor is better suited for an overflow crowd.

Some may have noticed that Friday’s hearing was on the 3rd floor, in the old Supreme Court Chambers though.  Why? Milburn was asked if he would switch his house committee out of a first floor room to accommodate the hearing on Essmann’s draconian SB423.  Milburn responded that he’d absolutely not be accommodating any of the Senate Judiciary hearings because they killed his bill that would repeal Montana’s citizen’s initiative allowing the medical use of cannabis.  One wonders how this issue could be so important to Milburn that he is willing to partake in such childish behavior, perhaps he has some sort of undisclosed financial interest.

Sadly, this sort of petty behavior has become rather common at the legislature- Republicans from the House and Senate regularly poke each other on random issues, according to our source.  Apparently, the House is angry that the Senate is killing some of the more extreme (and ridiculous) bills so the House seeks revenge by playing petty games and punishing patients in the process.  The house has also killed some legislation Senate legislation that Republicans would, and should, typically support.  Where are those compassionate conservatives we’ve heard about?  Surely not in Montana.
Why are our elected officials playing playground games on our dime? This is abhorrent behavior and the Republican legislative leadership should be absolutely ashamed. Unfortunately it appears that our myopic GOP legislators feel they are beyond reproach as they blindly execute their  “morally-superior” agenda, hopefully also executing their political futures in the process.
Montana deserves better leadership and legislation based in facts, not dramatizations or ignorant, maniacal talking points.   Several US government health and cancer agencies have recently admitted marijuana is an effective medication for cancer and other debilitating diseases- whether you agree or not, these are real Montanans with legitimate medical conditions- not some faceless crowd of stoned hippies.  The Montana voters decided, when legislators weren’t willing, to approve the medical use of cannabis, abolishing or severely restricting the industry should be a decision only voters make.  Why should we allow the same people who were too lazy to address the issue in the past to now create legislation to regulate this industry after they’ve repeatedly refused education and clearly remain ignorant?

Montana’s GOP God Squad legislating your morality, quantifying your pain, & protecting you from yourself


Take a moment today to thank the house members listed in bold below.  Why you ask? Thank them for ignoring the will of the people and voting to advance the repeal of a law passed by 62% of Montanans.

Thank you, representatives, for being so lazy.  You refused to produce any bills that created jobs but were instead focused on eradicating an entire industry that provides THOUSANDS of jobs for Montanans in addition to producing legislation on a host of other social issues.  I urge Montanans to flood these traitors and the remaining  house members with emails, calls and visits to inform them that you don’t approve of this sort of betrayal of our populace.  You elected them to fix our economy and create jobs…. and what did they do?  Not a damned thing.

Gone are the days that I defend the legislature.  When the liberals are bitching about hypocritical lawmakers seeking to repeal Obamacare while accepting taxpayer-funded health insurance, I will be right on board.  I will never give another penny to the Montana Republican party and I will never spend another moments assisting with anyone running for election.

On the flip side, the democrats in this committee are for the first time in my good graces.  There is a special place in hell for those who lack compassion for people suffering from debilitating illnesses and that has nothing to do with political party affiliation. May God have mercy on your souls.
 

David Howard Chair*
Cary Smith Vice Chair* Hubby of Susan Smith of Safe Community Safe Kids infamy
Michael (Mike) More Member*
Pat Ingraham Member*
Dan Skattum Member*
Liz Bangerter Member*
Steve Fitzpatrick Member*
Dan Kennedy Member*
Joe Read Member*
Max Yates Member*
Timothy Furey Voted NO….
Pat Noonan Voted NO
Chuck Hunter Voted NO
Ellie Boldman Hill Voted NO
Carolyn Pease-Lopez Voted NO

 

Blowing Smoke: Montana Legislators Campaign Promises vs Actual Legislative Agenda


Today is the opening day of Montana’s 90 day biennial legislative session.   Legislators continue to talk tough about the governor’s structurally unbalanced budget, opting out of national health care reform mandates, eliminating expansion of the size and scope government, job creation and other issues important to Montanans.  As always, however; there seems to be a great divide between what the legislators SAY and what they DO.  One such prime example is the emphasis the legislature is placing on repealing or reforming Initiative 148- Montana’s medical marijuana law passed by 64% of Montanans in 2004.  Currently, there are approximately 27,000 Montana medical marijuana patients as well as 5000 caregivers.  The economic impact, although unintended; is staggering.
Despite:
  • Recent Gallup polls indicating 58% of Americans in western states favor the full legalization of the use of marijuana  (48% of Americans overall)
  • The December Missoula  “marijuana mutiny” trial where prosecutors were unable to seat a jury after one by one, prospective jurors expressed their unwillingness to convict on possession of a small amount of marijuana.  The case received national attention from the Wall Street Journal’s legal blog to the Huffington Post and many Montanans were outraged at the expense of trying a man for possession of two buds of marijuana.
  • Recent quotes by Montana Republican legislators: “I do believe that moral issues are a very important part of politics and our society … and they’re personally important to me, also,” Speaker of the House Mike Milburn said. “But the focus of this session and the focus of Montana right now has to do with the economy and getting people back to work.”  Oddly enough, Mike Milburn has been actively working to repeal the medical marijuana law.
  • Recent quotes from Montana Democrat legislators:  ““We’ve got to concentrate on the things that matter and not be distracted by these proposals from the past,” added incoming House Minority Leader Jon Sesso, D-Butte. “Unless the proposal can show us that it is going to directly improve the lot of Montanans out of work, or those who are under-employed, we’re going to resist it.”

Montana legislators, primarily Republicans who campaigned on pro-business, pro-jobs, and anti-big government platforms; are proposing a host of bills ranging from fully repealing the law to regulating the industry to death.  Considering that most Republicans have criticized Obamacare, complaining that  the government has no right to step into the relationship between a physician and patient, it seems very odd that Senator Jeff Essmann would draft a bill proposing a 3 physician panel to determine if a patient does indeed have chronic pain.  Apparently he knows more about legitimate medical conditions than a trained physician.  I wonder how Essmann, an attorney, would feel about a doctor proposing laws to oversee his representation of clients.

Democrats too are in on the game.  Gov. Brian Schweitzer said he’s “absolutely convinced” a large number of Montanans with medical marijuana cards don’t have legitimate medical needs and just want to smoke marijuana “quasi-legally.”

“What we need to do is create a system so that we have people who actually have a medical need for marijuana,” he said in an interview with the Billings Gazette. “There will be a bill that will make it to my desk that is going to sort of close the loopholes in this medical marijuana. It needs to be done. I think currently the law is, ‘smoke ’em if you got ’em.’ ”

As I’ve said before, Republicans in Montana were handed majorities in both houses on a silver platter- not because they were Republicans but because they were NOT Democrats.  The victories were not mandates and the Republicans should not be spending political capital they did not earn.  Balance the budget, create some jobs, allow Montana to opt out of Obamacare….. then the capital will be earned.  Proposing unnecessary social reforms in a time of fiscal crisis will ensure not only a loss of Republican majorities but potentially a loss of the governor seat as well in 2012.   Stop trying to legislate morality.  Nobody has ever died of a marijuana overdose in the history of time.  Focus on what matters to Montana, drugs are at the bottom of the list according to the Montana Chamber of Commerce Power Base survey, voter ID interviews, and overwhelming public sentiment.