As most of you are undoubtedly aware, Tuesday’s mid-term elections brought surprises on many levels. Overall, it was a devastating day for Democrats on both state and national levels. Republicans will control both houses in Congress and, once again, will control both houses in the Montana Legislature.
Three ballot initiatives legalizing recreational use of marijuana passed. Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia will join Washington and Colorado in legalizing the use of marijuana for their citizens over the age of twenty one. In Florida, a ballot initiative for legalization narrowly failed with 58% of the voters supporting it. Florida requires 60% support to change their constitution. I have no doubt that there will be a successful effort made in Florida two years from now.
While the rest of the nation marches forward on the issue of dismantling marijuana prohibition, we are struggling in Montana to protect legal access for medical reasons. Unfortunately, medical marijuana in Montana has become politicized in a way that threatens to cut off legal access to the sick people that the law was intended to help
In 2011, when the community asked for reform of the medical marijuana law, the legislature gave us prohibition. SB 423 was passed on a mostly party-line vote that cut off all legal avenues of access to medical marijuana for people with debilitating illnesses. MTCIA hired the Goetz Law Firm, whom filed a motion for a temporary restraining order. The order was granted by District Court Judge Reynolds in Helena. There were appeals filed in the Montana Supreme Court and subsequently remanded back to the District Court where the issue remains under judicial review. If we lose the appeal for a permanent injunction through the court system and fail in our efforts to amend SB 423 during the next legislative session, Montana will become the first and only state to repeal a medical marijuana law.
This raises the question; Why can’t the Montana Legislature get it right? Nationally, support for medical marijuana has consistently polled in the range of 75%-80% . In 2004, Initiative 148 (The Montana Medical Marijuana Act) passed with 62% of the voters supporting it. Yet, in 2014, medical marijuana in Montana is on the verge of extinction. The losers in this process are the Montana voters, whose will was overturned by the legislature, and particularly, Montanans with debilitating illnesses.
Let us all pray that benevolence trumps arrogance in the upcoming legislative session and that our elected officials work with our industry toward solutions rather than prohibitions.
Yours in Solidarity,