Cannabis Showdown Between Feds, Colorado, And Washington
Advocates for free markets and limited government seem to turn politically schizophrenic when it comes to cannabis prohibition in Montana.
A majority of Montanans appeared to let fear and ignorance motivate their vote for I-124, which keeps in place the stupid, reactionary legislative disaster known as SB 423 from last years legislative session.
How bad is it? This bad:
SB 423 is not medical marijuana regulation, as supporters of this bill would like you to believe. SB 423 makes no mention of medical marijuana; the program is now called the Montana Marijuana Program. Participants in this program are no longer called patients, but “registered card holders.”
SB 423 has no state oversight, meaning that production and distribution of marijuana for medical purposes is not regulated or overseen by any state department, agency or regulatory committee. The Department of Health and Human Services simply issues cards and sets administrative rules and fees. It does not oversee any regulatory aspect of the program. In fact, SB 423 even bans labs and testing facilities, allowing no testing or any type of quality control.
After the governor vetoed a full repeal bill, SB 423 was thrown together in the last few weeks of the legislative session. The goal, to come as close to eliminating the program as the Legislature could get. SB 423 punishes and penalizes those who try to participate.
SB 423 limits providers, formerly called caregivers, to two patients and does not allow them to be compensated in any way. They must grow and give away their product for free. SB423 actually creates a widely distributed system of production (lots of small growers) and eliminates all professional organizations that could actually be subject to strict regulations. Basically this is a “hippy system” of unregulated masses growing their own, as opposed to any kind of controlled regulatory system.
SB 423 allows for warrantless searches of any place marijuana is grown, including private residences. This is a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Article II, Section 11, of the Montana Constitution. It also bans all forms of advertising, a clear violation of the freedom of speech.
It mandates all participants in the program be disclosed to law enforcement. Cardholders who are pulled over by law enforcement can be forced to submit a blood sample, simply because they participate in the program.
SB423 interferes with the Doctor / Patient relationship by forcing doctors to limit their recommendations for medical marijuana to 25 patients per year, or face a costly investigation by the medical board of examiners.
SB 423 will leave well over 5,400 current cardholders without a provider. If these cardholders cannot grow their own medicine, (and many people cannot grow for themselves for numerous reasons), they will no longer be able to participate in the program and forced to give up their card.
Eclipsing local bad news for advocates working to address the idiotic war against a plant is the great news that came from Colorado and Washington voters, who legalized possession of the federally designated schedule I drug. But don’t break out the bowls or spark those joints yet. The big question now is how will Obama’s Department of Justice react?
There are those who hope an Obama administration, unconstrained by the need to campaign for reelection, will become suddenly more progressive on the hardline positions that made political advocacy for party loyalists so challenging to sell.
The work to counter the authoritarian creep (that will continue under Obama) must begin in earnest now, on many fronts. Some local efforts have not been effective at all, like Missoula’s Marijuana Committee, which is disbanding because their efforts were negated by state law, at the request of Fred Van Valkenburg.
The Montana Legislature’s House Bill 391 essentially undid Missoula’s Initiative 2.
In fact, Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg requested the 2011 legislation because he couldn’t enforce state law and carry out the local initiative simultaneously; the 2011 law says the power of initiative does not extend to “the prioritization of the enforcement of any state law by a unit of local government.”
Once the law was on the books, it made sense for the commissioners to request the committee disband, said Commissioner Michele Landquist..
Meanwhile, prescription pills are killing more people than cocaine and heroin combined. Legally prescribed methods of pain management with narcotics is fueling an actual drug epidemic that could probably use some more resources toward managing.
30,000 cardholders, including some who cited chronic pain as their reason for choosing medical cannabis, were successfully framed by prohibitionists as participating in an out-of-control weed-toking free-for-all. They were aided, IMHO, by media sources like the Missoulian, who obsessed over the psychotic antics of Jason Christ, and ran stories like this.
For those of us who understand cannabis prohibition is cruel and ultimately not enforceable, gains continue to be made. Colorado and Washington have made two big strides in the right direction.
President Obama, now thinking about his legacy, can recognize that momentum, and adapt, or he can continue using the power of the Federal government to seize property and destroy people’s lives.