Tag Archives: Montana

Montana Judge Protects Medical Marijuana Program, but More Work Needed

Two and half years ago, the Montana legislature gutted the 2004 voter-approved medical marijuana law and replaced it with a law that got as close to repeal as possible. Since then, the state has been fighting in the courts to defend its ill-considered law. Victory was finally handed to Montana patients this month when the presiding judge ruled that caregivers can continue to operate under the state’s marginally functional system. This means they can continue serving an unlimited number of patients — not just the three that the 2011 law allowed, in addition to other important provisions.

While the ruling allows patients at least some access to their medicine, it falls short of the sensible medical marijuana dispensary system that patients deserve, and that almost every other medical marijuana state now has.

Don’t allow the Montana legislature to ignore its responsibility to protect its citizens.  Please pass this message to friends, family, and supporters and ask them to send a clear message to their state legislators!

Rob Kampia: What Can We Learn from DOJ Memo?

Last week, the Department of Justice announced that it would not prioritize marijuana enforcement against businesses that were following state law and adhering to a set of criteria established by Deputy Attorney General James Cole. Given the administration’s history with marijuana policy, there is a lot of speculation about what this memo will mean for the future of reform efforts and the legal marijuana industries in Colorado and Washington, as well as the 20 states and the District of Columbia that allow marijuana for medical purposes.

rob_kampia
Rob Kampia

Here is an excerpt from an in-depth analysis by MPP’s executive director Rob Kampia in the Los Angeles Times:

The Cole memo was the equivalent of no policy at all, since the federal government goes after very few individual marijuana users. In 2012, it sentenced only 83 marijuana-possession offenders to probation or prison, according to the U.S. Sentencing Commission. Meanwhile, the DEA raided more medical marijuana providers during Obama’s first term in office than it did during the eight years under President George W. Bush.

So what can we learn from the Obama administration’s words and actions?

The key lesson is to write state-level marijuana laws correctly. There have been hundreds of outrageous DEA raids on medical marijuana clinics in California, Montana and Washington state, but these three states’ laws don’t explicitly authorize the clinics in the first place. (These states simply authorize patients and caregivers to grow their own.)

In contrast, there have been zero DEA raids on clinics in Arizona, Colorado, Maine, New Jersey, New Mexico, Rhode Island and Vermont. In these states, plus the District of Columbia, there has been a clear licensing process for medical marijuana businesses.

Read the full article here.

MPP’s Worst State Legislators of 2013

MPP  released a video last week listing the country’s “Worst State Legislators of 2013″ on marijuana policy issues. The seven state representatives and one state senator were selected based on their legislative efforts to maintain or expand marijuana prohibition policies, as well as statements they made, during the 2013 legislative sessions. Watch the video countdown below. 

The Huffington Post reports:

The video counts down the MPP’s top eight marijuana policy offenders, alongside some direct quotes that are questionable, to say the least.

Take, for instance, Rep. Darryl Rouson (D-St. Petersburg), who called bongs and pipes “utensils of death;” Rep. Luke Malek (R-Coeur d’Alene) who called medical marijuana a “farcical predatory scheme;” and Rep. David Howard (R-Park City) — whose home state of Montana has been battling a crippling meth epidemic — who called marijuana a “poison” and “the most dangerous drug there is.”

The list also garnered some local media attention in Colorado, where the #1 worst legislator of 2013, Sen. John Morse (D), is facing a highly talked-about recall election, and in Iowa, where the #7 worst legislator, Rep. Clel Baudler (R), bragged about being listed.

“Code of the West” illustrates need for sensible regulation

Of the 17 states that have passed medical marijuana laws, only one — Montana — has experienced a serious legislative effort to repeal the law.

How could this have happened, and what can advocates in other states learn from Montana’s experiences?

Fortunately for those of us who work to pass — and improve — medical marijuana laws, an excellent new documentary film provides a unique and insightful view of Montana’s 2011 repeal effort. Code of the West, directed and produced by Rebecca Richman Cohen, recently made its debut and is now being screened at film festivals and other venues across the United States.

I had the honor of presenting Code of the West at its New Hampshire debut Friday evening at the New Hampshire Film Festival in Portsmouth. As an MPP legislative analyst monitoring the ongoing action in Montana, I was familiar with the events depicted, but seeing these events unfold on the big screen — against the stunning backdrop of Montana’s rugged mountains — provides a more complete experience than any number of newspaper articles could possibly supply.

In a nutshell, the repeal advocates depicted in Code of the West are appalled by the proliferation of unregulated medical marijuana dispensaries in Montana and by the ease with which non-patients appear to be qualifying for medical marijuana cards. Instead of seeking regulations to curb these perceived abuses, they lead an organized effort to repeal the law.

Despite being a very well-made film, a few scenes in Code of the West are difficult to watch:

  • One repeal-supporting legislator foolishly compares medical marijuana to the deadly poison arsenic.
  • A grandmother suffering from advanced cancer loses access to medical marijuana and is left with no choice but to manage her pain with morphine.
  • A repeal supporter admits that some seriously ill patients benefit from medical marijuana but continues pushing — not for regulation and restrictions to prevent abuse, but for a full repeal.

The film’s main subjects are medical marijuana advocates led by Tom Daubert — a well-respected political professional whose life is turned upside-down by an unjust federal prosecution — and repeal advocates led by a group of concerned parents and Montana House Speaker Mike Milburn.

Although the attempt at full repeal does not succeed, the film does not have a happy ending for patients and their advocates, as legislators resist common sense efforts to regulate the medical marijuana industry. Instead, they opt to pass SB 423, an ultra-restrictive “repeal in disguise” that will dramatically limit patients’ access.

A year after the film’s action concludes, Montana’s struggle to achieve a sane medical marijuana policy continues, and many conflicts described in the film remain unresolved.

Despite his efforts to pass regulations and improve Montana’s medical marijuana law, federal prosecutors brought felony charges against Daubert for his involvement with a medical marijuana dispensary, giving him little choice but to plead guilty. In September, Judge Dana Christenson ignored prosecutors’ request for a lengthy prison term and instead sentenced Daubert to five years of probation.

Another of the film’s subjects, Daubert’s former business partner Chris Williams, was recently convicted on eight felony counts and, astonishingly, faces mandatory minimum sentences that could keep him incarcerated for life. Williams’ attorney is currently seeking a new trial. Sadly, yet another of Daubert’s former business partners, Richard Flor, was sentenced to a five-year prison term earlier this year and died in federal custody August 30 after being denied medical care that had been recommended by a judge.

Fortunately, Montana voters will have an opportunity to reject the legislature’s “repeal in disguise” when they go to the polls Nov. 6. Regardless of how Montana’s IR-124 fares at the ballot box, Montana’s legislature should learn from the experiences portrayed in Code of the West and pass sensible regulations for medical marijuana providers in 2013.

For more information on Code of the West, including how to schedule a screening in a town near you, click here. If you submit a request, you’ll receive more details, including information on screening fees and the option to preview the film.

Montana Medical Marijuana Pioneer Gets Probation, No Jail

Yesterday, Montana medical marijuana activist Tom Daubert was sentenced to five years of probation by a federal judge for his involvement in a medical marijuana access point that was raided by federal agents early last year. That operation was one of 26 locations that were raided simultaneously throughout Montana by federal agents in an effort to destroy the state’s burgeoning and predominantly lawful medical marijuana industry.

Daubert has been actively fighting for medical marijuana patients’ rights since 2004. He began his work on the issue as the consultant for MPP’s campaign committee during the successful initiative campaign. Since then, he has worked tirelessly in the state capitol and with local law enforcement to ensure the future of medical marijuana and maintain good relations with lawmakers and police. He even invited them to tour the facility, which is documented in the film “Code of the West.”

Tom Daubert was fortunate not to receive any prison time, even though any punishment is far too heavy a sentence for merely trying to make sure that seriously ill people have safe access to their medicine. His former partner Richard Flor was treated far more harshly. On August 30, while serving a five-year sentence in federal prison, Flor died after suffering two heart attacks and other medical problems. His transfer to a facility that may have been able to treat his numerous health conditions had been delayed for months.

Meanwhile, several other providers and former staffers are still in prison — including Richard’s wife and son. Others are still facing trial or sentencing.

We at MPP wish Tom the best and thank him for everything he has done.