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© 2011 Montana Cannabis Industry Association PO Box 9085 Missoula, MT 59807
I just sent this to Goetz, Baldwin & Geddes P.C., the law firm who represents the MTCIA in our suit against the state:
I am now a few days overdue thanking you for the outstanding work on this case. As an attorney, I can appreciate just how challenging it has been to beat the oddsmakers on overcoming a rational basis test standard, and you guys nailed it. You have quite literally helped thousands of patients around the state and, singlehandedly, saved the state’s medical marijuana program from all but drying up. We are indebted to you – well beyond our current bill.
As you may have heard, Lori Burnam passed away last week, just before she had a chance to see the impact of her testimony. We will all miss her dearly and she has become a hero to many of our supporters across the state.
We continue to try and raise money to pay down our bill, and that process will be ongoing. Now that you have saved the small businesses out there, that task becomes much more manageable.
Thank you again for your tremendous work.
Impaired driving is stupid and dangerous, and protecting Montanans from impaired driving is a good idea. But not all approaches are equal, and some, while good intentioned, can cause more harm than good.
House Bill 168 was up for public comment today at the Capitol. This bill, introduced by Republican Rep. Doc Moore of Missoula, would establish a per se form of DUI that is specific to detectable amounts of THC in the bloodstream.
There are two types of DUI offenses. The first is based on actual impairment while driving. Its where we get the familiar roadside sobriety tests like the walk-and-turn and the one-legged stand. The other type of DUI is called per se, and it is were we get an alcohol limit of .08 BAC. For this type of DUI, if a person is in actual control of vehicle on the “ways of the state,” and has a BAC of .08 or over, he or she is DUI regardless of the actual level of impairment.
Approximately 15 states have implemented a per se DUI that involves not just alcohol, but THC. Our own legislature began the process of considering such a bill today called HB 168.
Our lobbyist Pat Pardis was there to present testimony both as an advocate and a physician. Rose Habib also presented critical testimony on the failure of this bill to actually meet any scientific standards.
The are several significant problems with this type of approach to DUI, and both Pat and Rose did a great job of laying out the case. First, this bill does not distinguish between the active Delta 9 THC and the metabolized THC-COOH. Accordingly, anyone who consumes cannabis even once would arguably be DUI for weeks afterwards. Second, the arbitrary limit of 5 ng/ml is just that: arbitrary. Even the federal government’s own scientists say the line does not go to impairment. Some people are impaired well below 5 ng/ml, others would not be impaired until it is much higher. Finally, there is no statistical evidence that per se laws actually make the roads safer in any state where they exist.
House Judiciary Committee chairman Kreyton Kerns indicated he was troubled by implementing such a bill without a solid foundation in science, and that is good news. Ellie Hill pointed out these were the same issues the legislature was troubled by last session, and the bill died last session on that basis. We do not know yet when the committee will take a vote on the bill.
The jury returned a verdict late today finding Jason Washington, former owner of a dispensary in Missoula, guilty on two of three counts against him in federal court. He was found guilty of conspiracy to manufacture and distribute marijuana and possession with intent to distribute marijuana. The jury found him not guilty of the third charge, possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking crime. Jason was not taken into custody, and he was allowed to leave the courthouse on his own.
Representative Kelly McCarthy, (D) Billings, is in the process of assembling four key bills for medical marijuana patients and providers.
Mr. McCarthy has crafted a series of bills that would permanently change our current medical marijuana law and bring it into conformity with the injunction Judge Reynolds put in place. Each one, in turn, removes the limitation on the number of patients per caregiver, allows them to receive (gasp!) compensation for their services, relieves recommending physicians from the threat of an investigation into their practice, and eliminates warrantless police searches for providers simply for being providers.
These bills will soon be before a committee for a hearing and we want to support a “yes” vote to get them to the floor of the House. It helps us considerably that Judge Reynolds recently put the injunction back in place. Its time to use this momentum!
If you are interested in providing testimony when a hearing is scheduled, please let us know. As we did during the hearing on the injunction, we want to focus on testimony that highlights what impact the current law will have if it were in effect. Rather than continuing the legal battles in court, we want the legislature to fix this problem and move on.
Representative McCarthy deserves our thanks and support for standing up on this important issue!
The association’s efforts to make positive change in our state laws are now underway at the Capitol. Board member and physician Pat Pardis has kindly taken on the responsibility of lobbying on our behalf. Pat has a great deal of experience working in government and he is a real asset to our effort. He plans on being at the Capitol 3 or 4 days each week to meet with legislators as needed.
There are dozens of bills we are currently watching, some we will propose, and we plan to be a regular and familiar face at the Capital this year. Many of the bills we are tracking do not deal directly with cannabis issues, but go to things like forfeiture law, probationers, employment law or other issues our supporters may have an interest in, and which may affect our community either directly or indirectly. As the session continues, we will have a better idea of how these laws may affect us and whether or not they are worth drawing broader attention to.
There are also bills we are very interested in supporting, some of which have begun the process, while others are still in the planning stages for strategic purposes. I will discuss a few specific bills in posts to follow shortly.
We will likely support a broader medical marijuana bill this year and we have spoken with both Senators and Representatives about sponsoring such a bill. We are not kidding ourselves, however. The legislative leadership, which has a great deal of control over both houses, has little interest in seeing any such bill succeed, and many times we will be fighting simply to get a bill out of committee. Our strategy is long term, and what we cannot accomplish today, we will accomplish tomorrow. Persistence is the key and we are building long-term relationships that will last well beyond this session.
We feel that it is too early in the session to attempt a sweeping change to our law, but believe that as the session continues, we will get to know who our allies and opponents are and can craft an approach with the broadest appeal. The most important thing we can do is be pragmatic and useful to the process, and much of what we have focused on so far is to establishing credibility as a rational and level-headed group that is professional and sincere in seeking positive change. Name calling, personal attacks, and purely emotional appeal may make activists feel good or portray a certain image to a core group of supporters, but in fact they can easily have the opposite effect and will make our mission nearly impossible. We will not engage in such tactics.
As always, thank you for your support!
Some of you may have noticed our logo recently changed to the Montana Cannabis Information Association, removing the term “industry” from out name. There are several reason we made this change.
First and foremost, it is because the only marijuana “industry” in our state is the ever-successful and thriving black market. The handful of individual medical marijuana providers working for patients in our state are simply not an industry by any stretch of the term. There are still some mom-and-pop small businesses thanks to our lawsuit, but these fall far short of what most people would ever consider an industry like the pharmaceutical industry or other large-scale manufacturing enterprises.
Secondly, the word “industry” is often used by our political foes to mischaracterize who we are and what we work toward. We seek positive change in state cannabis law and most of our supporters are medical marijuana patients, those who provide a needed service to them, and those who want to see a change in our state’s prohibition of cannabis by all responsible adults. We have no large lobby or big donors who push an agenda specifically in support of business.
Finally and perhaps most importantly, members of our board believe it is time to expand our mission to include an end to cannabis prohibition for all responsible adults. Medical marijuana is an important area and we are not going to ignore the needs of the community. However, prohibition wastes taxpayer dollars and brings nothing but destruction to lives and families across the state. States like Washington and Colorado have led the way, and we will be learning from their experience and incorporating those lessons in an effort to bring positive change in our own state.
In many respects, the challenges we face with respect to medical marijuana stem from the policy of prohibition. When prohibition is addressed, the problems we face regulating medical marijuana become easy to solve. Justice and balance must be achieved for everyone, not just those with serious medical conditions. It is time we addressed the root of the problem and take prohibition head on.
In a decision handed down late today, Judge Reynolds in MTCIA et al., v. State of Montana, ordered that a preliminary injunction should again be in place in order to protect medical marijuana patients from irreparable harm.
This means that medical marijuana providers may (1) have more than 3 patients and (2) receive compensation for their service. The specific parts of the current medical marijuana law that have been BLOCKED by the court order are as follows:
(3) (a) (i) A provider or marijuana-infused products provider may assist a maximum of three registered cardholders.
(ii) A person who is registered as both a provider and a marijuana-infused products provider may assist no more than three registered cardholders.
(b) If the provider or marijuana-infused products provider is a registered cardholder, the provider or marijuana-infused products provider may assist a maximum of two registered cardholders other than the provider or marijuana-infused products provider.
(4) A provider or marijuana-infused products provider may accept reimbursement from a cardholder only for the provider’s application or renewal fee for a registry identification card issued under this section.
(6) A provider or marijuana-infused products provider may not:
(a) accept anything of value, including monetary remuneration, for any services or products provided to a registered cardholder;
(b) buy or sell mature marijuana plants, seedlings, cuttings, clones, usable marijuana, or marijuana-infused products.
A link to a copy of the order is below.
Other portions were previously blocked and those continue in place, including the prohibition on advertising and the mandatory investigation of doctors who make more than 25 medical marijuana recommendations per year.
This is outstanding news. DPHHS will NOT be sending notice out to approximately 5500 patients that they need to grow their own. Our attorneys Jim Goetz and Devlan Geddes have, again, done an amazing job protecting the rights of Montana’s patients and those who provide to them.
THANK YOU to all the supporters out there who have made this possible through your donations. You have done the patients in our state an incredible service through your faith in the MTCIA, our attorney and the case against the state.
We would also like to thank, posthumously, Lori Burnam, who made the long journey to Helena to testify on our behalf. She brought the courtroom to tears, and I have no doubt her testimony made a big impression on the judge. I will say it again, thank you Lori.
Thank you, on behalf of Lori’s family, for the outpouring of support after her passing yesterday. For those who can offer a small donation to help the family with expenses, the family would be most grateful.
Donations can be sent to:
The Burnam Family
103 West Cooper Lane
Hamilton MT 59840
Checks should be made payable to Trevor Burnam.
Thank you everyone.
I am very sad to report that Lori Burnam passed yesterday at 2:20 p.m. She was surrounded by loved ones when she had to go.
Lori was a bright light and a joy to be around. Was a warrior who fought for what she believed in despite the toll it took on her. At over 60, she took the task improving the medical marijuana laws in our state as her personal responsibility and had a very real impact on our state laws and the many lives around her.
We will miss you Lori, and we all send our heartfelt condolences to those she leaves behind.
I understand her family is setting up a location where donations can be made to help with expenses, and I will post that information when available.
I just heard that Lori Burnam’s health has taken a bad turn, and family and friends fear it is a turn for the worst. Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.
Lori Burnam is one of the most recognized medical marijuana patients in Montana. She was featured in the film Code of the West and she also testified in the initial hearing in the MTCIA lawsuit over a year and half ago. Most recently, she made the demanding road trip from her home in Hamilton to Helena to testify on behalf of the MTCIA a second time in our case. We are all saddened to hear that her health has deteriorated since that trip and she is now gravely ill.
Once we hear more about her condition, we will share what the family feels is appropriate. Lori’s efforts on behalf of all medical marijuana patients, especially given her age and physical condition, have been truly heroic and she has earned our everlasting gratitude and respect for what she has done for all of us.
We love you Lori.