Cannabis Showdown Between Feds, Colorado, And Washington

by lizard

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..

Thanks Fred!

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.

  1. Dave Budge

    The Obama administration will not deal with the reality that is the War on Drugs because the Democrats will not stand to be painted as the party embracing libertine culture. But we can change that over the long run.

    I’ve been a member of the Marijuana Policy Project and the Drug Policy Alliance for about 10 years (which, BTW are both funded to some degree by George Soros AND the Koch brothers – funny that.) I recommend that you get involved with both if you haven’t already.

    BTW, I don’t use recreational drugs any longer and I’m a recovering drug addict clean now for 17 years. But the war on drugs ruins more lives than the drugs themselves. Fighting that is worth both my money and my time.

  2. d.g.

    Our young, erudite president is, of course, caught in the 21st Century vortex of power/money/idealism. That drones fly haphazardly toward wedding parties and the Feds prosecute Kalispell, Montana landlords is a sad, sad fact that will become more of a legacy than erasure of the pre-existing condition clause.

  3. Pogo Possum

    Voters approval of Initiative 124 is “The Will of The People”, Lizard. I would think the pro-MM crowd would understand and accept that considering that catch phrase is all we heard from them for the past few years the MM crowd was making a mockery out of the original initiative that legalized MM.

    • lizard19

      yes Pogo, the fear-driven will of the people was expressed at the ballot box, and the crisis of unchecked medical marijuana was averted by drastically limiting how many patients a provider may serve, and radically forcing providers to NOT BE COMPENSATED for their efforts.

      like I said, the political schizophrenia necessary for free-market/limited government folks to go along with this ridiculous legislation is truly impressive.

      I also wonder how many people actually understood what they were voting for. I had more than a few conversations with friends who were legitimately confused that voting against I-124 was essentially voting for the previous expression of Montana voters, which the 2011 legislative session worked so hard to undo.

      it’s a set back, to be sure, but the momentum is going in the other direction, and with the help of young libertarians, who are tired of the stupid hypocrisy from the Montana GOP God Squad (to borrow a phrase from Montanafesto’s post, which the first link takes you to), I think the will of the people will continue to shift away from one of the dumbest wars this nation has ever waged.

      • Although I suppose there were a number of voters who were confused and voted FOR the initiative instead of against it, I would say that there were at least an equal number whose votes inadvertently benefited us.

        The reality of it is that we didn’t have the level of support necessary to pull off repealing SB-423. Whether the blame lies with fear, laziness, or just being stoned, it became difficult to continue working for this cause when those who benefitted most from it weren’t willing to lift a finger. There are a few key exceptions, of course, but for the most part, patients and providers weren’t willing to fight for what they believed in. In addition, the public has yet to see the devastating effects of SB 423 as the law is currently (and likely very temporarily) in a much diluted form thanks to injunctions.

        Marijuana advocates in other states are dressed in suits while ours are donning bacon costumes on the street corner holding signs. Marijuana should be legalized and most thinking people realize that, but convincing the others won’t likely happen for quite a while in Montana.

  4. Karen T.

    Didn’t this originally come from Montana Cannabis Industry Association? That’s where I read most of this. If so, you should share the credit. We share the cause.

    • I read every single post on the MTCIA blog and I’ve never seen this on our blog. Check it out for yourself, There are only so many ways you can shape a message about something horrible, after a while, it all starts to sound very similar. When we are all working for the same cause, recognition that important in my opinion. Regardless, these were Liz’s words.

  5. lizard19

    Karen, as montanafesto pointed out, the non-quoted language is all mine, and it’s worth looking at closely, because there are problems there.

    the fight in Montana against cannabis prohibition was narrowed from the very beginning to medical access, and the laziness of the state legislature post-2004, combined with the mistaken assumption that Obama’s 2008 election would change Federal attitudes, opened up a space that was sometimes used and too often perceived as a trojan horse for legalization, diluting and undermining the argument for the medical benefits and needs of patients.

    I’m not directly involved in the “MM” movement, but I’ve followed blogs like montanafesto’s, I’ve read the conventional media framing of the issue, and I’ve come to the conclusion that there is plenty of blame to go around for losing public support, and that blame needs to be honestly shared along with the credit for trying to inform people about how truly disturbing SB 423 is.

    the fight from this point forward is not just a national concern over cannabis prohibition and the larger issue of the war on (some) drugs, it’s also a global concern, having an immediate ripple effect in Mexico.

    to be continued…

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