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.