The following press release will be sent out tomorrow morning:
CANNABIS ORGANIZATION TAKES ITS CAUSE TO BILLINGS AREA BILLBOARDS
Ongoing Debate over Will of the People Continues Appears on Montana Avenue
A billboard reading “Welcome to Yellowstone County, Where the Will of the People Doesn’t Count” now appears on Montana Avenue in Billings. The billboard was put up by the Montana Cannabis Industry Association, best known its legal challenge to the current medical marijuana law. The new law repealed the popular and controversial voter initiative which landed on the books in 2004 following a vote of 62% of the voters.
“Through their repeal efforts, the legislature ignored the will of the people and claimed to be abiding by it all at the same time,” says Chris Lindsey, President of the MTCIA. “First, they rushed to repeal the original law and leave patients with nothing. When that failed, the same group of people came up with their current back-door effort at repeal – by making participation in the state program as painful and risky as possible. Voters need to regain control of this issue, repeal the current terrible law and demand a realistic set of regulations. No one wants to go back to the way things were, but what we have now is worse for patients.”
The sponsor of the current law, Senator Jeff Essman, (R) SD 28, is a resident of Billings.
Proponents of medical cannabis say the current law, often described as regulation, is simply a confusing set of penalties for participants and a mine-field for participants. “If alcohol were regulated like our current medical marijuana program, we would have a thriving black market in alcohol. Working in the black market shouldn’t be a better solution than complying with the law,” said Lindsey.
Neither patients nor providers may legally obtain plants or seeds under the new program, and those who provide cannabis to patients are prohibited from recouping their expenses. A lawsuit by the MTCIA has temporarily blocked the prohibition on compensation through an injunction. “But that is a temporary thing. The Supreme Court could simply order the lower court to reconsider its injunction.” The Montana Supreme Court heard arguments in May in which the state Attorney General acknowledged patients should be able to use marijuana, but providers should not exist – except when they provide for free.
Dianne, a resident of Yellowstone County, finds the new law frustrating. “I rely on a provider to grow cannabis for me. I can’t do it – I’m sick! That’s why I can use medical cannabis in the first place,” she said. Since March of 2011, the number of providers in the state has fallen by over 90%. “Good luck finding a legal provider now. I really don’t believe this is the will of the people of at all. If the state is going to allow for medical marijuana, there has to be some way for me to get it, and it shouldn’t come from the streets,” she said. “I don’t want to go to the black market, and I wouldn’t know how.”
Both the Democratic and Republican Parties have added medical marijuana to their platforms this year, and the Republicans acknowledged the current law falls short. “We look forward to working with both parties to fashion a better solution this next session, but the current law must go. It’s worse than useless – its actually harmful,” said Lindsey. The MTCIA website is located at www.mtcia.org.