Designed as a trade association, the MTCIA has been an important tool for getting things done in Montana. The organizational structure was already there in place, if not active, when the crisis of SB 423 happened in 2011. Founder Nathan Pierce could see the crisis for what it was and though the organization was “his baby,” he welcomed a set of people onto the board who had the right skill sets to augment the skills of those already on the board so together they could get done what needed to get done to save and preserve medical marijuana access in Montana.
It was a busy, tumultuous, productive next six to eight months for the MTCIA following the 2011 legislature. The Montana environment at the time was one of fear, raids, indictments, and threats. But the board got it done. Key provisions were enjoined before the law could go into effect. The program took a shot but access was preserved.
The forward motion of the lawsuit stabilized as it moved through the court system. A new iteration of the MTCIA board emerged as people left and others came on. The board of 2013 splintered as a result of a difference of opinion over the direction of the organization. Half the board left and instead pursued their objectives as MT NORML.
In the years between that split and 2016 not much happened to forward medical marijuana or reform cannabis laws in Montana despite a minor legislative effort by a MTCIA board member. However, the primary need in those years was the protection and continued support of the lawsuit, and that responsibility was carried out. (Some have expressed that the MTCIA failed to report to the Office of Political Practices the cost of the MTCIA lawsuit. This criticism represents a misunderstanding of what a political expenditure is.)
In 2016, everything was at stake again as the Montana Supreme Court ruled in the state’s favor. As happened in 2011, a set of concerned Montanans stepped up with the skill sets needed for this critical moment. In excruciatingly short timelines, the emergent new board spearheaded a successful citizens’ initiative campaign to replace SB 423 which was now coming into effect. The MTCIA worked to extend the deadline before the program shut down to get patients and providers as close to election day as they could and narrow the period without access to as small a window as possible.
As a result of these efforts, medical marijuana will be re-established in Montana. Montana will have a workable law. Montana will have testing labs. Dispensary employees will be protected in state statute. Those who suffer from PTSD will have direct access to the program.
The organization itself will have organized books, meetings held under Robert’s rules of order, and revised, restructured by-laws. The current members of the board, like ones before them, will come and go. They will return their energies to their own businesses and families. Others will step up. Hopefully, they will be the right people at the right time for the mission at hand, be it simple or fighting off dragons. Hopefully they will be people who can look beyond their own businesses to create a functioning, responsible system of access and keep carrying that ball down the field.
A special ‘thank you’ this Thanksgiving weekend to MTCIA founder, Nathan Pierce, who did something prescient when he created the MTCIA. The MTCIA has served as the infrastructure necessary to act effectively against efforts to wipe out medical marijuana access and for regulations that make the program safe and functional.
Have a happy holiday weekend. We have confidence in the legal merits of the MTCIA case and expect to hear back from the court soon.