In Massachusetts, the Joint Committee on Marijuana Policy just approved a "repeal and replace" bill that bears very little resemblance to the legalization law passed by 1.8 million voters in November.
The bill would undermine efforts to replace the unregulated market with a system of licensed businesses. It would take away the right of voters to decide on local marijuana policy, and it could impose a tax rate on marijuana that exceeds 50%. It authorizes the sharing of information with the FBI on cannabis commerce, including employees and medical patients. It also makes the Cannabis Control Commission — the entity that will regulate marijuana businesses — less unaccountable.
If you are a Massachusetts resident, please call your state representative and tell them not to vote for this bill when it is presented for a vote in the House on Thursday. We must not allow politicians to repeal and replace the will of the people, especially when their proposed changes are so flawed and misguided.
Despite being disappointed with the language of the bill, it appears that Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer is not upset enough to veto the final version of S.B. 423, which would destroy the burgeoning medical marijuana industry, force patients to go to the illicit market, and make it extremely difficult for patients to qualify for the program.
On April 30, Gov. Schweitzer announced that while he was not pleased that the legislature had ignored most of the amendments he suggested when he first sent the bill back to them, he felt that it would be better to pass S.B. 423 than leave the status quo. He said he will let the bill become law without signing or vetoing it. He still has time to change his mind, however.
Under S.B. 423, larger marijuana-growing operations and all dispensaries must shut down by July 1. Patients will have to grow their own or obtain it for free from a provider who can grow for up to three people. In addition, doctors who certify 25 patients will have to pay for an investigation into their practices.
Patients and Families United plans to launch a statewide referendum campaign soon and will need help from far and wide. If enough signatures are gathered with the required geographic distribution, S.B. 423 might be prevented from taking effect prior to putting it before voters in November 2012.
Gov. Schweitzer should be commended for vetoing the bill to completely repeal the medical marijuana law and for attempting to get the legislature to amend the current bill in a reasonable fashion. He shouldn’t give up now. S.B. 423 is bad for patients, doctors, and businesses. It will put many Montanans out of work and many more sick people back in pain. And instead of creating a regulated, controlled system for distribution, it will have the opposite effect from what the legislators intended, specifically driving patients into the hands of illicit drug dealers.
Governor Brian Schweitzer stood up for the voters, medical marijuana patients, and their caregivers Wednesday when he declared his intent to issue an amendatory veto for SB 423. This bill would have drastically hindered the ability of seriously ill patients to become qualified for the program and would have eliminated the bustling legitimate medical marijuana industry, forcing patients to grow their own or resort to the illicit market. Schweitzer said he will send the bill back with amendments that allow strictly licensed commercial growing and distribution, as well as protect the privacy of patients.
The governor stated that the bill, as written and passed by the House and Senate, is unconstitutional. He also expressed disappointment in the legislature for wasting nearly the entire session trying to thwart the will of Montana voters by passing bills that are nothing but repeal in disguise.
Schweitzer said he doesn't believe the bill will survive a legal challenge.
"I'm kind of disgusted right now," he said...
… Schweitzer criticized the Legislature for managing to "squander away" most of the 90-day legislative session before sending him the bill. He said lawmakers already know it's unconstitutional, which is why they put a "severability clause" in it, saying if a court strikes down part of the bill, the rest stands. Severability clauses are common in complex bills.
"Why don't you just pass something that works, that's constitutional and that can survive the test of time?" he asked.
If the legislature does not transmit the bill in time for an amendatory veto, Gov. Schweitzer will be forced to either veto it outright or allow it to become law. From his statements, it’s not hard to guess which way he’s leaning.
In addition, it appears that the governor of Montana did not overreact to recent statements from U.S. Attorneys in Washington that the federal government could prosecute medical marijuana businesses and state employees involved in licensing them. Unlike Gov. Gregoire, he probably looked at the absence of such prosecutions in states like Rhode Island, Maine, Colorado, and New Mexico, all of which have state-licensed dispensaries. Just because the Department of Justice says they can go after marijuana businesses does not mean that they will, and the experiences of these states suggest that they are not likely to do so, particularly in states that have clear regulations allowing dispensaries.
Let’s all reach out and thank Governor Schweitzer for treating medical marijuana in a rational, principled, and compassionate manner. If he keeps standing up for the will of the people of Montana, his re-election is “guar-an-dang-teed!”
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 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.