The Montana Cannabis Industry Association (MTCIA) responded today to an editorial in the Billings Gazette by Senator Jeff Essman. In it, Essman said it was “marijuana millionaires” behind the challenge to the new medical marijuana law that dismantles marijuana businesses and requires cannabis patients to secure marijuana through a person who will provide it for free.
“Senator Essman is backed by millions of dollars provided by the interests of pharmaceutical companies and private prisons,” said MTCIA board member, Kate Cholewa. “He’s been made big promises if he succeeds in destroying access to medical marijuana in Montana. How do I know this? I made it up, just like he made up that the support for this lawsuit comes from marijuana millionaires.”
Cholewa reported that the largest single donation received for the lawsuit against SB 423 was $5000. The smallest was $4.20. “The average donation is $315,” Cholewa said. “We’ve also received jars of $40 and $60 worth of single dollar bills collected by patients. The people donating to this cause are fighting for their lives, their health, the democratic process, and their livelihoods – the kinds of things that motivate people.”
In the past three months, in five separate warrants, federal agents were authorized to seize in excess of 5 million dollars from five different Montana medical marijuana businesses.
“The true amount seized?” Cholewa said, “less than $72,000 total. There’s a difference between what the warrant says can be seized and what money is there to actually take.”
Though federal warrants indicate a maximum dollar amount that can be seized, receipts are provided to the businesses for the actual dollar amounts taken.
“The feds always feed the press the authorized number, not the true number,” Cholewa said. “One of the biggest losses, though, is to the genetics,” she added. “Some of those strains ripped out of their pots took some years of breeding and testing to develop. No receipts for that.”
The MTCIA is challenging the new law and trying to get an injunction against it going into effect on June 30. The new law requires investigations of physicians making more than 25 referrals, requires two separate doctors to sign off on chronic pain referrals. It provides no legal way to secure seeds and plants, and it requires that marijuana be provided for free.
In his editorial, Senator Essman states that attorney Jim Goetz was secured by the MTCIA “to prevent them from losing their very profitable business.”
“That not how it was working,” Cholewa said. “The medical cannabis marketplace wasn’t making a lot of people in the cannabis business rich. It was making Montana communities richer because more money was circulating in the local economies.”