In a great show of respect for the will of the voters in Montana, Gov. Schweitzer vetoed H.B. 161, the bill that would have repealed Montana’s medical marijuana law. That law, which was approved by a large majority of voters in 2004, has come under criticism lately, and overzealous lawmakers are doing everything they can to gut or eliminate the program.
While this is a wonderful sign of support from the governor, medical marijuana patients and businesses are still at risk. The legislature is currently considering another bill that would seriously damage the ability of patients to access their medicine, and would destroy the legitimate medical marijuana industry that has emerged in Montana. S.B. 423, and especially the House version of the bill, would add to the already staggering unemployment rate in Montana and would effectively send patients back to criminal organizations to get their medicine. It would also severely limit the number of patients for whom a caregiver can grow marijuana.
Hopefully, the Senate will reject the House’s version of “repeal lite” and insist on a more compassionate proposal. Even if the Senate rejects the House’s unworkable bill, though, the Senate version was also too onerous and unworkable, especially for pain patients. Patients will likely need to rely on the governor to see the error in this bill as well, and suggest reasonable regulations for Montana’s medical marijuana industry that do not hurt patients or their caregivers.
Last week, the Montana House passed H.B. 161, a bill that would repeal the medical marijuana initiative passed by voters in 2004, in a preliminary vote that fell along party lines. This week, in preparation for the final House vote, the prohibitionists have switched their arguments from baseless fear mongering to "fiscal responsibility."
Yesterday, the main supporter of the bill argued that repeal of the medical marijuana law would cost the state money at first, but that it would save money in the long run. From the Billings Gazette:
House Speaker Mike Milburn, R-Cascade, told the House Appropriations Committee that a cost estimate from the governor's budget office shows if his bill repealing the law passes, it would cost the state nearly $263,000 in fiscal 2012 but save the state about $317,000 in 2013, $479,000 in 2014 and $496,500 in 2015 …
… As estimated by the budget office, the additional costs the first year are because of the cost of estimated increases in incarcerations of people using what would then be an illegal drug. The net savings in the three future years would be from reducing state employees and the cost of running the registration for medical pot.
If Milburn's stated intention of targeting and prosecuting 20,000 Montana citizens, who are not currently criminals but who will be if H.B. 161 passes, isn't sickening enough, his economic narrow-mindedness and disrespect for the voters of Montana certainly is.
The estimate of money saved in the future by the state government is based on eliminating bureaucratic costs for running the medical marijuana program. Unfortunately, this doesn’t take into account the roughly 1400 jobs that will be lost if medical marijuana is repealed. It doesn’t consider the continued cost of prosecuting medical marijuana patients. And it doesn’t mention the revenue created by the medical marijuana industry that goes right back into the local economy. Apparently Milburn is more concerned with the amount of money in the government coffers than with the livelihood of the average Montana resident.
So let’s get this straight: Mike Milburn is willing to use his political buddies in the state legislature to overrule the will of the people of Montana, who overwhelmingly approved the use of medical marijuana by 62% of the vote. He is willing to spend taxpayer money to hunt down sick people and put them in jail. He is willing to put 1400 Montanans out of work, and take millions of dollars out of the local economy.
He is willing to do all this because he thinks too many people are using marijuana.
Are you willing to let him succeed?
If not, you can help here.