By Sarah Russo | Published in ProjectCBD.org
There is a chance that the people of Montana will see medical Cannabis become illegal. In 2004, the Montana Medical Marijuana Initiative passed with 62% of the vote.
Since then, some 28,000 Montanans have gotten physician approval and registered with the state program.
On February 4, 2011, The House Human Services Committee voted 10-5 to repeal the law Montana’s voters had enacted. The 10 supporters of the Repeal Bill (all Republicans, the five opponents were Democrats) gave the go-ahead to send House Bill 161 to the Senate.
HB 161 would criminalize medical marijuana and once again put it in the category of a “dangerous drug”.
If passed by the Senate, the bill would go to the governor for his signature. If the governor decided to veto the bill, the House may have enough votes to override him (the Repeal Bill’s sponsor is House Speaker Mike Milburn).
“People are doing some amazing things in this state relating to Cannabis research. We are just in the beginning of discovering CBD rich strains and promoting them. If we get repealed, we would have to stop, and everything we have done is gone. We shouldn’t have to be criminals to promote science.” ~ Hiedi Handford
How can a voter-passed initiative be at risk of being reversed? Unlike California, in Montana, the state legislature has the ability to repeal or change any initiative. The people have spoken but the politicians are following another master. Media coverage of the repeal bill is biased at best.
Patient advocate, Hiedi Handford, comments on the television news stations and newspapers covering the story in the state, “we have reefer madness prevalent in Montana, especially with our media. They are behaving just like in 1937. It is all negative propaganda, and there are no human interest stories. The only person they followed was the one that is destroying the industry. It is shameful.”
At the State House meeting on February 2nd, public opponents of the repeal bill outnumbered supporters 3-to-1. House speaker Milburn stated “there are no scientific studies that prove marijuana has any medicinal value.”
Either Milburn is lying, or he did not read “The 2011 Legislators’ Guide to Medical Cannabis” given to him by Jim Gingery, Executive Director of the Montana Medical Growers Association.
Nor did he listen to the many patients who testified that medical Cannabis vastly improves their quality of their lives, and some even testified that if it weren’t for medical cannabis they would have already died. Handford added that “this bill will deny many patients access to life-saving medicine… the authors of this bill will have murdered innocent American lives.”
Claims that marijuana is harmful came from a representative of The Rimrock Foundation, a Montana addiction treatment center. “Marijuana is a very addictive drug,” she asserted. “Today’s pot is 25 percent stronger than the pot of the ’60s and the baby boom generation. …”
It’s ironic that repeal of Montana’s medical marijuana law would cut off research aimed at introducing less- or non-psychoactive strains into the grassroots supply. Three labs are now testing medical Cannabis in Montana, and they have identified two CBD-rich strains —”Misty” and “Good Medicine.” Handford says, “People are doing some amazing things in this state relating to Cannabis research. We are just in the beginning of discovering CBD rich strains and promoting them. If we get repealed, we would have to stop, and everything we have done is gone. We shouldn’t have to be criminals to promote science.”
Not surprisingly, the Montana public wants its law to be left as they voted for it: a recent poll by the Montana Standard showed a strong majority 52%, opposed to repeal. Only 24% believed it should be “tossed out.”
Another threat to Montana’s medical marijuana law comes from Senate Bill 154, which will be heard in committee Feb. 11. SB-154 would assign the Department of Revenue to oversee the use of medical marijuana. It would require growers of medical Cannabis to have a specific license, pay a 10 percent tax on their sales, and submit quarterly reports.
It would also change how patients become eligible for medical marijuana and would require a person with severe chronic pain to have recommendations from two separate doctors before they were eligible legally able to use Cannabis medicinally.
These proposed regulations would interfere in the doctor-patient relationship and make the patients’ task of obtaining medicine more difficult. SB-154 would also shrink the list of conditions that qualify medical Cannabis patients for the program. Conditions that would qualify under SB-154 would be as follows:
(1) “Debilitating medical condition” means:
(a) cancer, glaucoma, or positive status for human immunodeficiency virus, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, or the treatment of these conditions;
(b) a chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or its treatment that produces one or more of the following:
(i) cachexia or wasting syndrome;
(ii) severe or chronic pain;
(iii) severe nausea;
(iv) seizures, including but not limited to seizures caused by epilepsy; or
(v) severe or persistent muscle spasms, including but not limited to spasms caused by multiple sclerosis or Crohn’s disease; or
(c) any other medical condition or treatment for a medical condition adopted by the department by rule.
Blatant disparities would result. A medical patient from California could legally use Cannabis for anxiety in Montana, but a Montana resident could not. The original medical law allowed for “a chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or its treatment that produces one or more of the following [above listed conditions]”.
While many medical Cannabis advocates in the state believe that regulations need to be incorporated into the existing law, HB 161 and SB 154 would steal the voice of the populace.
A few decision makers would take away the right of over 28,000 registered patients to use the medicine of their choice. Montanans would have to wait two years until they could try and get another medical Cannabis initiative on the books.