The Missoulian, Transients, And Medical Marijuana

by lizard

As I have been following the emerging tabloid-like coverage of the now infamous Jason Christ, it occurred to me that pot-crusaders and panhandlers have something in common: the dogged attention of the Missoulian.

for example, read the first chunk of reportage by the Missoulian’s Gwen Florio in the latest installment of the Christ saga (italics mine):

Jason Christ, perhaps Montana’s best-known medical marijuana proponent, faces an accusation of felony intimidation in connection with an alleged bomb threat at the Verizon store on South Reserve Street in August.

hmmm, perhaps this bowl-roasting psycho (my opinion) is “Montana’s best-known medical marijuana proponent” because the Missoulian is all revved up about reporting on him. because he’s controversial. because that sells papers.

obviously y’all know where I’m going here, because I’ve said things like this.

the influence of local media sources like the Missoulian, though in decline, are still powerful actors in how certain hot-topic subjects get framed.

take, for instance, the headline of this recent article:

Kalispell woman sentenced for covering up death of medical marijuana patient

the victim referred here as the “medical marijuana patient” is 49 year-old Wesley Collins. read this article for more context.

my questions is this: why does the fact some medicinal marijuana was “shared” by the victim and the assailants, and the theft of some plants (in addition to other things stolen, like cough syrup with codeine) warrant the murder victim be reduced in the headline to a “medical marijuana patient” instead of WESLEY COLLINS?

this topic–critically examining how certain topics are reported–is touchy, because I know people working for the Missoulian and connected to both the issues cited in the title of this post.

but i also think that these days, with some corporate media enterprises struggling for survival (thus willing to fan any controversy that may translate to sales) it is absolutely necessary to remain skeptical about how certain issues are handled, from headlines to comment threads.

  1. Pogo Possum

    I don’t agree that Jason Christ or medical marijuana is in the news just “. . . because the Missoulian is all revved up about reporting on him.” Christ and this issue are leading stories for a lot of Montana news sources, both main stream and non-main stream.

    Here are snippets from just a few stories from our own non-main stream media source the Missoula Independent:

    “Jason Christ, the controversial medical marijuana advocate and founder of Montana Caregivers Network (MCN), was arrested in Missoula late Monday afternoon and charged with disorderly conduct and criminal mischief, both misdemeanors.”

    “The group, led by director Jason Christ, drives RVs all over the state and operates “Cannabis Conventions” . . . Some critics call this one-stop-shop approach “docs in a box” “

    “Christ estimates MCN doctors have approved between 70 and 80 percent of Montana’s roughly 14,000 medical marijuana patients.

    “Police search and confiscate items from the Missoula offices of Jason Christ, …”

    Christ even made news in Toke of The Town:

    Talk to some of the legislators dealing with the medical marijuana legislation and Christ’s name comes up a lot. One legislator, who supports the use of medical marijuana, told me Christ is the poster boy for all that is wrong with the current medical marijuana industry in Montana.

    • lizard19

      what about murder victim Wesley Collins? Is his being a medical marijuana patient so critical to the story it warrants inclusion in the title of the article?

      • Pogo Possum

        The fact that early in this case one of the defendants “. . . admitted to entering Collins’ residence with Lake and another individual to remove the marijuana plants” is a very likely reason the Missoulian and almost every other main stream and non-main stream media source included “medical marijuana” in the headlines or lead paragraph.

        The words “medical marijuana” emphasize to the reader that Collins is an innocent victim and not some guy running an illegal marijuana grow operation that got ‘whacked’ in an illegal drug deal gone bad. Its journalism 101.

        If the defendants stole a rancher’s horse and the cash in his pocket you can bet the headlines would have included “rancher” and “horse thief”. Kill a guy running an illegal whisky still and expect “moonshiner” to appear in the headlines. Steal grandma’s social security check and expect to see “grandmother” and “social security check” in the lead sentence. Rob Dennis Washington and expect the word “billionaire” or “Fortune 500” to pop up in bold print.

        Admit to beating a guy to death with hammers to steal his medical marijuana plants 12+ months after Montana voters legalize marijuana and you can bet your Al Gore bumper sticker that the media (whether the Missoulian or Toke of the Town) is going to include the words “medical marijuana” in the headlines. Journalism 101.

  2. Ingemar Johansson

    Never did meet that funny refer man.

  3. lizard19

    while weed still seems to bring that tiring boomer culture war back into the fray, it may be beneficial to remember that it was a corporate media campaign that demonized the evil reefer in the first place, back before hippies were even mewing little babies.

    and the power of that nearly century old corporate media campaign is still with us, obviously, but instead of framing weed as something those scary dark-skinned men did (making them sex-crazed for White America’s innocent blue-eyed daughters) the negative framing of the Missoulian’s coverage focuses on the criminal element that surrounds the fact marijuana has not been federally de-criminalized.

    something i wish would get more attention is how many jobs the medical marijuana industry is supporting, and how much commercial space is being rented, and how much money could be saved in court costs and enforcement costs if it was just legalized.

    Jason Christ is a poster boy because the media has made him one. while it’s entertaining, thus an economic incentive for companies like Lee Enterprises to invest in, it certainly doesn’t serve the larger conversation that needs to happen.

    • mr benson

      I think you’re right. If there are no good stories, we can always depend on the newspaper to trot out a story about how terrible it is transients can’t get free food and drugs and shelter, how uncaring we all are. That’s sure to spike the letters to the editor calling for another raid on taxpayer wallets.

      I didn’t vote for medical marijuana as a growth industry; just as a way sick people could ease their pain or symptoms of disease or treatment. I certainly didn’t vote for it to give dirtbags like Jason Christ a forum.

      Failing that, there’s always the weather.

      • lizard19

        i think you’re right, mr benson, the transients are sucking the taxpayer dry. in fact, i bet those damn parasitic street drunks are enjoying their winter shangri-la right now.

        maybe we should pass some more ordinances. or maybe the Missoulian should create another opportunity to equate the transient issue with The Pov, helping the campaign to drive a shelter out of the downtown core. because that will stop panhandling and save downtown businesses, right?

        as for MM, your vote didn’t give Jason Christ a forum, the Missoulian did. have you read any stories about people with legitimate medical needs lately?

        • mr benson

          Well, lizard, I think it’s working the way we intended in some places, and there have been articles that cover that.

          • lizard19

            where are those articles? i put “medical marijuana” into the search function at the Missoulian, and i didn’t find anything that depicts MM positively.

            i did however find a fascinating article about the judge asking Jason Christ how to pronounce his last name.

      • The Polish Wolf

        I think we’ve been over this – taxpayers pay for the homeless one way or another. Like with so many public policies, we save more money if we spend it preventing expensive emergency care.

    • Pogo Possum

      Wrong Lizard. Christ is a poster boy because:

      * he is a self professed media hound who jumps in front of cameras or journalist at the drop of the hat to lead “smoke-ins” around the state and make a show of lighting up in front of the State Capitol in Helena and within sight of police headquarters in Missoula to feed his insatiable ego,

      *has bragged to all that will listen that he has “. . . approved between 70 and 80 percent of Montana’s . . . medical marijuana patients,”

      *has acted like an arrogant in your face ass in front of Montana legislators charged with addressing re-writing Montana’s MM lawsk,

      *is the subject of several employee related lawsuits involving his MM business

      *has been issued restraining orders and charged with harrassment, intimidation, and threats of violence by his MM employees and employees of a Missoula business.

      Christ is a self made walking PR disaster for the medical marijuana industry and those who legitimatly need it. The Missoulian didn’t make him a poster boy. He grabbed on to the title with both hands and waved it in peoples faces.

      • If he really did sign up 70 percent of MT cardholders, it seems legitimate to focus on him. On the other hand, if ever there was a human prone to hyperbole…

      • if they had set it up in the first place for physicians to prescribe and licensed pharmacists to distribute this medicine through legitimate pharmacies as i originally thought it was going to be, we would have been all spared this sordid carnival of stupidity.

        this whole sorry mess could have been solved with a few sentences of lucid common sense by the people who drew this citizens initiative up. rather than everyone jumping in with both feet to make things worse, why don’t we just ask physicians and pharmacists to rewrite the original bill so that a responsible chain of distribution is used to provide relief to legitimate patients?

        but really, i do not see why we don’t just make pot legal for every adult over the age of 21 just like alcohol and let montana state regulate it so we can get rid of this slimy layer of pseudo-merchants and provide some much needed revenue. it was perfectly legal and available when the united states was born in 1776. i see no justifiable reason to make it illegal if true liberty is our ideal in this country. it simply is not any of my business what people do if they do not hurt anyone else’s rights.

        i don’t use it but i am in favor of any adult who wants it to be allowed their choice without interference.

        • I don’t know what percentage of doctors would prescribe MM, but I bet it’s pretty low. And no national pharmacy chain is going to sell a schedule I controlled substance.

          I agree that legalization is the correct answer. But it has to come from Congress. Which isn’t going to happen until most of the people endlessly replaying the 60s hoping that this time their team will win pass from the scene.

      • mr benson

        Lots of legit growers providers completely repudiate the guy. I’m friendly with many of these guys and gals and they make a couple of points.

        First, if your town has no doctor who will prescribe, what do you do? If you just don’t know where to turn, what do you do? The “cannabis caravan” and the New York doctor and some of the other JC stunts really did serve the underserved.

        Second, nobody else is tokin a bong on the Capitol steps. And almost everyone else is taking exceptional care to follow the ordinances of various towns who’ve tackled this.

        Third, all the predicted nonsense about violent gangs and mexicans attacking and all the rest, for the most part, have not happened. That hasn’t stopped some sheriffs and politicians from replaying the “reefer madness” schtick.

        Mostly, I agree with montanafesto. Republicans run on fiscal issues, my issues, and go up to the legislature, and lose their minds passing laws taking as many freedoms away from people as they can.

        Democrats are just more honest about it; they’re gonna take your money, because it’s not really yours, you greedy rich person, and you don’t have the sense to take care of yourself, so they’re gonna pass laws so the government does it for you.

        In that environment, medical marijuana won’t stand a chance from either side of the aisle.

        • lizard19

          i really like this comment, mr.b, because despite your previously stated fiscal position of not wanting to “support a growth industry” you obviously can see past the hype.

  4. mr benson

    Also, I think JChrist is as responsible for bad press as any sheriff’s hyperbole about “organized crime” and “violence”.

  5. The Polish Wolf

    I don’t read the Missoulian, but I can tell you its the same in the Independent Record- Christ is the only medical marijuana activist who ever gets mentioned. So, understandably, Montanans come to believe that Christ represents an entire industry and movement, which I think maybe not coincidentally weakens the public image of marijuana providers in general.

  6. lizard19

    can anyone make sense of the “jury mutiny” article in today’s edition?

    • What’s unclear about it?

      • lizard19

        i don’t know much about court procedure, so this article left me more confused than anything.

        how much time has this guy already spent in jail? is he still facing a felony charge, or did he walk out of the courtroom a free man? what were the details of the plea agreement? what did these prospective jurors think about the felony charge of distribution?

        was the article clear to you, Charley?

        • According to the article, he pled to a serious crime, and drew a 20 year sentence, 19 suspended. He gets credit for the 200 days already served.

          I’m guessing that the voir dire didn’t include any questions about whether prospective jurors would hesitate to convict on a distribution charge. So they wouldn’t have formed an opinion on that.

          We don’t know how much time, if any, he has to serve on his August felony conviction.

          I thought the story was about par of the course. I think so little of journalism, though, this is a very low bar.

  7. montanafesto

    It is disappointing that the media is willing to feed Christ’s malignant narcissism at an entire industry’s expense. I too would appreciate seeing articles about the people whose lives have been improved by the medical marijuana industry. I doubt there are many more people using marijuana now than were before medicinal use was legalized in the state- the difference is that now most of the money remains in Montana instead of being smuggled in a backpack to Northern California. Warehouses, vacant for years, have tenants. Gardening supply stores are cropping up all over. Approximately 5000 Montanans have caregiver jobs. Does anyone know how much money it requires to successfully grow marijuana in Montana? I think many would be surprised. There is this stigma that caregivers threw some seeds in their backyards and suddenly became millionaires.

    Ignorance contributes to that attitude, but Christ’s behavior does as well. Obviously Montana has had substantial growth in the industry- which has exposed areas in the law that require at minimum, clarification. Blaming the media isn’t quite fair though- If Christ wasn’t placing himself in the spotlight with his bizarre and sociopathic behavior, the media wouldn’t have anything to cover. I agree that Christ does represent everything that is wrong with medical marijuana in Montana and should legislators repeal or enact massive regulations within the industry, I blame Jason Christ.

    It will be interesting to see what happens in the legislature. There are already plenty of repeal and restrict bills being proposed and Republicans are looking to destroy medical marijuana rather than focusing on the fiscal promises that got them elected. What a shame.

  8. mr benson

    It is the End Times, or he’s got cancer. But locking people up for mandatory minimums on drugs and marijuana is insanity when the prison population is so costly.

  9. jim

    Republicans hate the free market system. We have the fastest growing industry in the state and the conservatives want to crush it. Not tidy up some loose ends and bring it into the capitalist fold, hell no. Led by Senator Drink and Drive from Victor who had his come to Jesus moment when he realized that running for Attorney General means he had to find a social ill he could correct. Nothing like pinning your hopes on taking medicine from those who use it successfully, so that you can appeal to those whose experience with pot was getting high when they went to college. Mostly they act like idiots because some other idiot takes his medicine on the steps of the capitol or anywhere else he can attract a lazy journalist. 73,000,000 people in the United States suffer with chronic pain. One medicine available that doesn’t destroy your liver or kidneys and which can’t be overdosed. The Pharma corps don’t control the product and their interests are certainly more important to Republicans than individual entrepreneurs and personal choice.
    What an opportunity the Legislature is messing. A free market industry in its infancy and the Republicans are chomping to kill it because it doesn’t meet their business model of corporate control.
    They smoking pot makes people stupid. True! Christ smokes pot openly and journalists and legislators get stupid.

  1. 1 Pot, Pills, and the Missoulian | 4&20 blackbirds

    […] the issue with sensationalist stories. I also pointed out how eager the Missoulian was to report on anything Jason Christ did, including an in depth look in the pronunciation of Jason’s last […]

  2. 2 Montana Media Realize Medical Marijuana Still Exists | Reptile Dysfunction

    […] culminated in some of the worst legislation I have ever seen on any issue getting passed. I wrote this post critical of the media in 2010. Here is one great comment from someone directly involved, […]

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