Last week, the House Human Services Committee, ignoring the will of the people, took the imperfect S.B. 423 and made it completely unworkable. Committee Chairman Dave Howard called medical marijuana a “scourge” and tried to get the bill as close to repeal as possible. We expect a full House vote as early as Monday, April 11.
So what exactly is going on in Montana? First, there was the initial push for repeal with H.B. 161. That bill stalled in the Senate, but was immediately followed by a rash of federal raids on medical marijuana businesses, which whipped the legislature into a frenzy to do something, anything, about this medical marijuana “scourge.” With full repeal supposedly off the table, S.B. 423 moved forward, which would have restricted the rights of patients severely and eliminated most medical marijuana businesses. When the legislature couldn’t agree on that, the full repeal bill reared its ugly head again. This time, it was approved by both the Senate and the House.
Now, Montana lawmakers are concerned that Gov. Schweitzer might veto the repeal bill, and are pushing an even stricter version of S.B. 423 toward his desk, just in case.
The bottom line is that everything comes down to Gov. Schweitzer. Since it is obvious that the legislature as a whole can’t decide on a humane and reasonable solution to the alleged problems in Montana’s system, we must ask the governor to support the will of the voters, by rejecting repeal of the medical marijuana law and proposing amendments that do not strip it of its substance.
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.