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Our political opponents attempted a publicity stunt yesterday that backfired in the most spectacular fashion. It is not often a group calls a secret press conference and promptly self-destructs at the microphone – but that is exactly what happened yesterday at Jake’s Steaks in Billings.
Patients for Reform, Not Repeal put out a radio ad that indicated Senator Essmann recognized the failure of his own law and thought it needed to be changed. (I have not actually heard the ad because it got limited air time, but that is my understanding.) Essmann did not appreciate the message and first tried to get the ad pulled. When that didn’t work, he wrote a letter the the editor of the Billings Gazette to qualify his statement, available here.
Shortly after the letter ran in the Gazette, he along with Safe Communities Safe Kids put out a press release and held a press conference in Billings to announce they were making complaints. They apparently hoped to hold it as a somewhat private event, and were surprised to see several advocates in attendance including both the MTCIA and Patents for Reform. Essmann said he was going to file a complaint against the MTCIA for misrepresenting him in the ad, and Safe Communities announced they would file a complaint against Attorney General Steve Bullock for allowing confusing language to appear on the ballot.
Elizabeth, our area coordinator in Billings and a board member on the MTCIA was there to set the record straight for reporters. She pointed out that the ad had nothing to do with the MTCIA and he needed to be more careful with his allegations. He went on to (in his usual fashion) to blame the “industry” for everything that has ever gone wrong with the medical marijuana program in the state, and claimed that SB423 allowed for regulation. Again, Elizabeth corrected him and explained that SB423 does not really address regulation in the slightest. His response was that it allowed local communities to regulate, and was told that no, it does not. The only mention of “regulation” is that communities can simply ban storefronts, which is not regulation. There is no regulatory agency or anything else of substance. Bob Bringham from Patients for Reform then told the press and Senator Essman that he was responsible for the ad and its contents, and he would be happy to talk with the press, which he later did.
Cherrie Brady took the microphone and explained that IR-124 is confusing and tried to blame Steve Bullock, claiming she intended to file a complaint. Jim Molloy, an attorney and a member of Steve Bullock’s campaign team launched an amazing cross examination of Cherrie, noting that she had every opportunity to weigh in on the language and simply didn’t do so. When she tried to shift the blame for their failure to do anything about the language, Molloy pointed out that all these individuals were working together and we won’t be so easily fooled. He called this a political stunt designed to win votes for Rick Hill and that the system should not be abused by those who know better. (And for the record, there was no attempt by anybody to make the ballot language confusing. Bob Bringham suggested that maybe SCSK’s constituents had their own issues if they couldn’t understand it.)
Not surprisingly, this story was picked up by the press in Billings, as Jeff Essmann had invited them to. Several news stories ran on this disaster of a press conference on both television and in print. Kudos to Patients for Reform for initiating such a simple and effective ad.
Since the MTCIA was incorrectly labeled the bad guy (as always) and Essmann was so far off the mark in his allegations and his arguments, I couldn’t resist sending him a thank you note and a wonderful set of flowers for a job well done at his press conference. My card read: “Dear Senator Essmann – Thank you for taking the stage with Cherrie Brady at your press conference on Wednesday. We appreciate everything you are doing. XXOO ~MTCIA”
The flowers arrived at his Billings office today.
Here are some links to the various news stories that discussed the press conference: