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© 2011 Montana Cannabis Industry Association PO Box 9085 Missoula, MT 59807
My name is Mort Reid and I am the newly-elected President of the Montana Cannabis Information
As some of you are aware, there is a renewed interest on the part of the Attorney General’s Office to
resume scheduling of a trial relative to the injunction of several provisions of SB 423. MTCTA’s lawsuit
and subsequent injunction has been the ONLY saving grace for the medical marijuana community since
the 2011 legislature attempted to kill the industry with SB 423.
We have been represented by the Goetz Law Firm on this issue since 2011. Mr. Goetz’s team has done
an outstanding job of keeping the wolves away from our doors since the summer of 2011 via
injunctions that prevents SB 423 from taking full effect. Without Mr. Goetz’s representation. Most of the
providers in Montana would be out of business and cardholders would lose access to their medicine.
Mr. Goetz has recently asked that we get current on our outstanding debt (approximately $26,000 as of today) and pay a $50,000.00 retainer fee PRIOR to the pre-conference hearing. I had a phone conversation with Mr. Goetz last Friday. Mr. Goetz agreed to work with us on the retainer fee if we could pay the balance within one month. Mr. Goetz is very optimistic that the trial will go in our favor and
the injunction will remain in place. The bottom line is that we need to pay the attorney a.s.a.p.
I just met with some of the providers and cardholders from the Bozeman area last Tuesday. Special
thanks to Randy Warburton and Denise Zielie for helping to arrange the meeting. I am still trying to
sort through some of the input and criticisms that we received during the meeting. Communications
seems to be at the root of most of the comments that we heard. We are working feverishly to get our
content completed on our updated website. We also have a new bookkeeper and will have monthly
treasurer reports to those who request it. I felt that it was a productive meeting and will endeavor to stay
informed as to the needs of our colleagues in the western part of the state.
We will be primarily focusing on fundraising for the next few months and in that vane I hope to meet
with some of the providers from the Missoula and Kalispell areas in the near future.
Those of you wishing to make donations by MAIL can send them to:
PO Box 50762
Billings, MT 59105
ONLINE donations can be made by accessing MTCTA.ORG and clicking on LAWSUIT DONATIONS
Yours in solidarity,
The board of the MTCIA welcomes and congratulates Mort Reid to serve as president of the association. “I am thrilled at the opportunity and look forward to the challenge,” said Mort, who has been an active and staunch advocate for medical marijuana patients and providers in Billings for several years. The board vote was unanimous, and Mort officially took the position May 3. He wasted no time and conducted a meeting and fundraiser in Bozeman earlier this week.
Mort follows two previous presidents, Ed Docter and Chris Lindsey, who each served for a year. Please join us in welcoming Mort!
MTCIA Raised $230,000 for Lawsuit, But More to Go
Since the current lawsuit against the State of Montana began in May 2011, the MTCIA has raised over $230,000 in legal fees. The lawsuit is being handled by Jim Goetz, a prominent Bozeman-based attorney and noted constitutional lawyer. He has been successful in twice winning injunctions to prevent some of the worst parts of the state’s current medical marijuana law from going into effect. The court recently signaled it was prepared to move forward with the case.
The current outstanding bill is $28,349.59, and Mr. Goetz has asked for another $50,000 in order to see the case through the final hearing. We must all pull together to keep our attorney paid or risk ending the case, in which event the court is likely to lift the injunction.
If the injunction is lifted, providers will not be able to receive anything of value from patients, they will be limited to three patients total, doctors will be audited by the Board of Medical Examiners if they recommend marijuana to more than 25 patients each year, and providers will be subject to warrantless searches by law enforcement. Please make every effort to contribute to this important cause! DPHHS has estimated that over 5,000 patients in the state will be without a provider if the full effect of the law falls on our state’s neediest citizens.
Those of you wishing to make donations by mail can send them to:
PO Box 50762
Billings, MT 59105
Online donations can be made through PayPal by accessing MTCTA.ORG
and clicking on LAWSUIT DONATIONS
Hello everyone, just a quick note to let you all know that this website will be undergoing a remodel over the next few weeks. Changes to design and functionality will be implemented as seamlessly as possible. The site should not experience any down time, but some features will not be fully functional at times. Things you can expect to see are as follows:
The MTCIA is receiving credible reports from supporters in the Miles City area that the State’s Drug Task Force is conducting warrantless “compliance checks” on providers in the area. Please be aware this is going on, and if you know providers in that area, please reach out and let them know.
Warrantless searches are currently illegal under SB-423. While the law itself allows for them, that provision of the law has been blocked in the MTCIA case by Judge Reynolds. If law enforcement does not have a warrant, you do not need to allow them to enter. There is no such thing as a compliance check so long as that injunction is in place.
If you are a provider in the Miles City area, be sure to know how to reach your lawyer in case you need legal advice. And be on the lookout!
Questions on the status of the MTCIA lawsuit and next steps? Join us for a state-wide call on Tuesday, March 5 at 7:00 p.m. The dial in number is 559-726-1000, code is 1030827#. See you there!
This is a long post folks, but an important one. Last week we received the following comment which expresses deep concern about SB423. I wanted to offer a formal response and go into some detail:
“If the injunction does not become permanent through law.. the State will appeal.. And when the supreme court rules against the district court( and they MOST CERTAINLY WILL!!!) again Medical Marijuana in Montana could be devastated ! That is why we must act now! It is clear that Sb 423 in its current form is not ideal! It would obviously be much better to introduce a feasible Bill NOW! A bill that will actually work for the People! Work for the state! and work for everyone! Patients should be able to have more than an oz! especially if they grow their own! And they should have the option to both grow their own and acquire from a provider! The state should be able to generate much more revenue through this industry and protect the citizens of this great state!! We MUST ACT NOW!! We have to pass something transparent in session this session at all costs!! Lets please get Goetz paid off!! why is he not paid yet!! where is all the money going!!??? This is War imo and we must not underestimate our powerful opponents! that is why we must win in session and pass a comprehensive bill!! SB423 as is with the injunction is only ok but its not what the people or the state or the feds want!!!! So we should act now to be sure the patients interests are being looked out for by the MTCIA and the people of this great state! Act now to ensure the MTCIA and other organizations have the support of our people, who need to contact their politicians. Contact your representative asap! If all the responsibility of the success for Montana’s cannabis industry lies in the hands of the Mtcia, IF WE LOSE THIS SESSION WE DIE AS A GROUP!! individuals will be prohibited from legal access to safe quality local medicine!!! many will be questioning the appropriation of donations and funds acquired over the last 2 years, transparency should be compliant and ultimately we should all stand up now and demand that the interest of the people donating are being properly represented in this fight of a lifetime! ACT NOW!! Support Jim Goetz! Support Montana Rights!!”
First, the MTCIA absolutely and unequivocally thinks SB423 is a bad law. We supported its repeal (even though it wasn’t our campaign), and unfortunately the voters disagreed with us by a very wide margin across the state. There is a lot of head-scratching as to why we fell so far short – voter confusion and preaching to the choir are the most common answers. But it is what it is. And it puts us in a nearly impossible spot this legislative session to take action against it. The general consensus among elected officials – both Democrat and Republican – is that the voters had a chance to get rid of SB423 and instead they overwhelmingly voted to keep it. Ok, ouch.
That leaves us to try and figure out what we CAN do, and the best way to do it. We have been debating this with supporters, lobbyists and politicians since the election.
Right now, we believe the best we can expect to accomplish is to seek make change where the current law is clearly flawed. As I previously wrote, Rep. Kelly McCarthy is introducing bills that will make permanent the things that were blocked in the law. This makes good sense. It costs the state and the community a lot of money to fight over things that are clearly a problem. After all, the state has been blocked twice now, even after the legislature, the AG and the Montana Supreme Court have fought it. We would be better off making these simple changes and moving on.
Senator Wanzenreid is trying to get PTSD added as a condition. We all know PTSD is very real, incredibly harmful to people, and medical marijuana helps. This is another common sense change that benefits patients who need help.
The natural tendency is to try to ditch our current law and start over with a smart regulatory system. But this raises several big concerns among those of us who have been on this ride before, as well as numerous legislators we have talked to.
First, will it accomplish anything? Its one thing to strongly, utterly, and undyingly believe change is needed. Its another to pass a bill. Even the gradual steps we are behind right now have been met with resistance from the top of both parties. If that is how they react to these simple steps, how will the parties react to a complete overhaul? Answer: Not well.
Will filling the halls at the capital with ardent believers make a difference? How about dozens of hours of heart-wrenching testimony? Or thousands of targeted emails to elected officials? Or hundreds of phone calls? They didn’t work last session. At all. We only avoided complete repeal because of the governor’s veto, and then we got a constitutionally defective medical marijuana law. What, exactly, would pushing for an complete overhaul seeking a more liberal bill accomplish this session? After we failed at the polls? Nothing.
In fact, it could easily backfire by re-opening an unpopular issue at the Capital. We have been warned by several well-placed politicians who believe in our cause that it could not only fail, but backfire and open the door to another effort to make things worse than they are now. Keep in mind that our political opponents now run both houses this session, not just the house. The folks that pushed back hard on all attempts last session at better regulation (when there was good support in the Democratic party) now call the shots and have appointed the members of the committees where these bills start. They SPECIFICALLY DO NOT want a repeat of last session and will go to great lengths to avoid it.
Next, politics does not favor efforts that repeatedly fail. It does not help our cause to put a lot of high-profile work behind a push for a law that dies a quick death – particularly when the press loves marijuana stories. We will lose credibility on everything else we try. We already took a big hit on the election, even though it wasn’t our campaign. With our success in the courts so far and our ability to reach the supporters in the state, we at least have some political capital we need to maintain and improve upon. Getting behind a bill that fails to make it out of committee will cost us dearly. We are better off focusing on battles we can win.
Does this mean we don’t care about patients or providers? Of course not. The point of all this hard work for the past year and a half is to improve conditions for patients and providers.
There are some that are concerned we do not always give our donations to our attorney. We have hired both an accountant and a bookkeeper who will be able to assemble a report to clearly show where the money has gone. This report will be available to our members – those who have actually funded us – and not the general public. I can assure everyone that it does not go into anyone’s pockets but our attorney. We do not make salaries and we do not have large travel budgets – we are an all-volunteer organization. Our overhead is extremely low. We hired, and do our best to pay, the best attorney we could find to carry our case. It really does not get any more interesting or complicated than that.
Will medical marijuana go away if we do not take action now? No. While the voters did not overturn SB423 in favor of a new bill, they did vote to keep medical marijuana in place in Montana. Ironically, this actually keeps our opponents in check, at least for status quo. Is history reversing itself? No. More and more states are adopting medical marijuana laws, and Washington and Colorado just voted for legalization. Legalization! That is huge. History-making huge. Ok, so Montana will not be an innovator. Montana will not get the black market under control, keep marijuana out of the hands of minors, or see any tax revenue from the tens of thousands of people in this state will will consume marijuana anyway – at least for now. We got kicked in the teeth first by the federal raids and then by the legislature, but the national trends are clear. Our best approach is to continue to make practical changes where we can. Put pressure on our congressional delegates to change federal law. If our elected officials will not respond to the shift in voter opinion, we get back to the petitions. And we will be back next session, and the next and the next. Change is coming whether our leadership gets that or not.
It is pretty tough being a medical marijuana activist in Montana. For the patients who clearly understand how marijuana benefits them, it seems obvious and tragic. For the providers who have established strong relationships with their sick clients, it is a humanitarian, compassionate labor of love full of risk and unfair stereotypes. The challenges here dwarf those of practically every other state in the US. But we are still here. We are a smarter organization than when we started. Heck, we are an organization at all! We have been successful at holding the law at bay for a year and half, despite the legislature, despite the Attorney General’s office and despite the Montana Supreme Court. And the landscape is changing all the time. We will continue to take every shot we can at improvement. Medical marijuana is not going away. And neither are we.
Senator Dave Wanzenreid is working on LC0250, which is a bill that would add PTSD to the list of qualifying conditions for a medical marijuana card in the state. We need your help to support this important bill.
We are looking for supporters who are willing to send email messages to their own state representatives. We are also looking for veterans who may be able to testify on behalf of this bill when it is before the committee.
If would like to help, please send a message with your name and contact information so we can follow up with you and discuss how you can help!
For the the background of HB242, see the post below.
Suffice it to say HB242 did not do well at the hearing this morning. While the MTCIA did not take a public position on the bill for the reasons previously discussed, plenty of others did, and it wasn’t favorable. The opponents greatly outnumbered the proponents.
The primary complaint is that for many (most?) employers, the current law works, and this proposed change would create a lot of unknowns and potentially get employees in trouble who have not consumed any controlled substances. Several unions including the firefighters and the pipefitters had issues. One example of complications for employees would be firefighters exposed to hazards such as meth houses, who might then test positive just for being around controlled substances in the course of their work.
The word among those present, including at least one career lobbyist, is that the bill most likely died today.
House Bill 242 is being considered today in front of committee. This bill would make changes to the law related to drug and alcohol testing in the workplace. For those watching marijuana-related issues at the Capitol this year, the key change is that the definition of “dangerous drug” would be amended from “a dangerous drug, as defined in 49 CFR, part 40, except a drug used pursuant to a valid prescription or as authorized by law” to “any substance defined as a dangerous drug pursuant to Title 50, chapter 32, parts 1 and 2.”
Primarily, our read is that this law makes it easier for employers to test for prescription drug use by employees. I don’t think there is any doubt medical marijuana could be included in this definition change since it is a controlled substance “authorized by law,” but use of medical marijuana is already clearly prohibited for some types of employees either on or off the job according to several significant cases as well as the language of the Montana Marijuana Act itself at 50-46-320(2)(b). In other words, we do not see this amendment as affecting the law either positively or negatively for patients.
Unfortunately, patients are in the same bad position they always were irrespective of this change. Employees can be tested for the presence of THC, and generally they can be terminated if it shows up if is prohibited under a zero tolerance policy for employers – even when they are not impaired on the job, and have a valid medical marijuana card.
If the law were to improve, it would be to require employers to ONLY test for Delta-9 THC, which would go to impairment while on the job – a genuine issue. What a person consumed 2 weeks ago when not “on the clock” should be completely irrelevant to an employer. However, this area has been heavily litigated and the cases do not go our way. The courts have consistently found that employers can simply follow federal guidelines and sidestep the impairment issue.
This is a good example of why we need to change federal law prohibiting cannabis.
At least you aren’t in Connecticut.
According to proposed rules just released by the State of Connecticut, applications could run as high as $100,000, the state is only required to issue one dispensary license for the entire state, and applicants have to be licensed pharmacists. Cultivation centers (separate from dispensaries) have to place $2 million dollars in an escrow account directly accessible by the state if the business runs into problems. Both dispensaries and cultivation centers have to submit detailed business plans with their applications.
That’s a lot of money and work to go break federal law! The irony here is that participants in that system will have all the same protections against federal law enforcement as we have here in Montana – exactly none.
Kind of makes you think Montana isn’t such a bad environment, especially with the injunction now in effect.
And it makes you wonder what our government might do if they ever realize they could tax the cultivation and sale of marijuana here.