In their official ballot arguments for IR-124 (SB 423), last year's legislation which all but shut down the medical marijuana law which was approved by Montana's voters in 2004, Republican Senate Majority Leader Jeff Essmann and Republican House Majority Whip Cary Smith bizarrely cited Democratic Governor Brian Schweitzer.
|Democratic Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer called the GOP-controlled Legislature "bat crap crazy" when they voted to overturn the will of the state's voters on medical marijuana|
Schweitzer famously referred to the last Legislature as "bat crap crazy," and vetoed HB 161, the bill Sen. Essmann and Rep. Smith supported aggressively to completely overturn the will of the voters on medical marijuana.
Later, in addition to issuing an amendatory veto of SB 423, Schweitzer also said of it: "Everybody's who's read it says, 'Oh yeah, it's unconstitutional.' "; "I'm kind of disgusted right now"; and "It seems to us unconstitutional on its face."
Gov. Schweitzer also said SB 423 "violates your constitutional rights to illegal search." The governor said it requires someone using medical marijuana to "be turned over to law enforcement in every town."
"Under this bill, I will guar-an-dang-tee you that there will be more illegal marijuana (that) makes it to the alley," Gov. Schweitzer said.
While the GOP leadership, in its 2012 voter guide arguments, tried to "Etch A Sketch" away the history of the "bat crap crazy" Legislature's SB 423, Patients for Reform Not Repeal used patients and a doctor -- instead of politicians -- to make its case in the voter guide.
Patients for Reform Not Repeal's campaign committee consists of Lori Burnam, an elderly cancer patient in Hamilton; Sarah Baugh, an epilepsy patient in Helena; and Dr. Edwin Stickney of Billings, past president of the Montana Medical Association and past president of the Montana chapter of the American Academy of Family Physicians.
"I desperately urge Montanans to vote NO on IR-124 and to reject SB 423," said Burnam, "because it is causing great and unnecessary suffering for patients across the state like me. One example of the 'bat crap crazy' nature of this extreme law is the fact that it literally provides no legal way for any patient or provider to obtain seeds or plants.
"It wasn't intended to work, and it makes criminals of the very patients that voters sought to help," Burnam said. "It overturns the intent of voters."
Below is the official voter guide argument against IR-124 (SB 423), followed by the legislators' argument, followed by the official rebuttal:
Argument Against SB 423
Listen to the doctors and patients, not the politicians. On IR-124, vote AGAINST SENATE BILL 423.
In 2004, Montana voters gave seriously ill patients the right to seek relief from their pain by using marijuana when recommended by a doctor.
In 2011, legislators effectively took away that right and overturned the will of the people. They repealed the voter initiative and replaced it with their own flawed law. This "grow your own" law literally provides no legal way for a patient to obtain medical marijuana seeds or plants. It's designed not to work.
Listen to 66-year-old cancer patient Lori Burnam:
"I use marijuana to treat my nausea and pain from advanced cancer. My family and my doctor have seen how it helps."
"But this new law has taken away my medicine. Patients like me have no legal way to get it. I'm sick. Am I supposed to go to some street dealer?"
SB 423 Harms Patients, Stifles Doctors
SB 423 makes it harder for doctors to care for patients eligible for medical marijuana.
Dr. Edwin Stickney is past president of the Montana Medical Association and the Montana chapter of the American Academy of Family Physicians. He says:
"The politicians have now made it more risky, legally, to recommend marijuana than to prescribe powerful narcotics. Doctors are threatened with state investigations. Many won't touch this."
"This law disrespects the doctor-patient relationship. The people who get hurt are the patients."
Legislators Overreacted and Trampled Rights
SB 423 is an extreme over-correction. After voters passed the medical marijuana law, 's leaders failed to create regulations. Then opponents shredded the law. Is there no middle ground?
Better Regulation Is Possible
There is a better way. We can regulate medical marijuana. We can protect patients' rights, help those who are ill AND protect our communities.
We will never go back to the excesses that came before. Federal law enforcement ensures that. New court decisions ensure that.
Your vote AGAINST SB 423 is a vote FOR regulation.
Bipartisan Support for Regulation and Patients' Rights
The new Montana Republican Party platform says:
"We recognize that a significant problem exists with Montana's current laws regarding the medical use of marijuana and we support action by the next legislature to create a workable and realistic regulatory structure."
The new Montana Democratic Party platform says:
"[The party] supports the right of qualified patients, with a medical condition where marijuana is appropriate, to have safe access to medical marijuana."
"Safe access." A "workable and realistic regulatory structure." These are goals we can all share.
Reaching those goals starts with your vote AGAINST SB 423. Only a vote AGAINST SB 423 sends a clear message to the 2013 Legislature to address patients' needs fairly - with a new bill.
Listen to the doctors and patients. Listen to the bipartisan consensus.
On IR-124, please say "NO" to SB 423, and "yes" to regulating medical marijuana effectively.
To learn more, or to help, please visit Patients for Reform, Not Repeal at www.PatientsForReform.org
Argument For SB 423
SB 423 was passed by the 2011 Legislature to bring the use of marijuana for medical purposes in Montana back to what voters voted for in 2004. What the voters of Montana supported is established by the Voter Information Pamphlet (VIP) argument in support of the original 2004 Initiative, I-148. The very first sentence of that VIP presented a very limited scope of purpose for the original initiative: "This initiative would allow the production, possession, and use of marijuana by patients with debilitating medical conditions."
The proponents' argument in the 2004 VIP stated that I-148 would "allow patients to grow their own personal supply of marijuana so that they will no longer have to buy marijuana from the criminal market." It stated that I-148 "would provide ID cards to legitimate patients so that police can easily distinguish between recreational marijuana users and legitimate medical marijuana users." Unfortunately, that is not what the state of Montana got.
After the October 2009 issuance of a memo by an Assistant US Attorney General, the lax language of the original initiative led to an explosion in the number of cardholders from about 4000 in September 2009 to nearly 27,000 in December 2010. The number of cardholders peaked at over 31,000 in May 2011. In July 2011 it was revealed that just one physician was responsible for issuance of at least 6,860 of those cards. Half of the registered cardholders were under the age of 41.
There was no mention in the 2004 VIP that Medical Marijuana Act authorized providers would themselves supply the criminal market. Nor that the sale and distribution of marijuana would occur through storefront operations, that marijuana would be advertised for sale through the use of billboards and provocative signage, that marijuana plants would be publicly displayed, or that the product itself would be smoked in a public setting on the lawn of the state capitol.
There was no mention that the Act would lead to the creation of Medical Marijuana caravans where many registration cards were handed out after "the physician might spend seven - eight minutes with each patient and then give them a letter of recommendation - no physical exam, no medical history, no follow-up." There was no mention in the VIP of the creation of a corporate "medical marijuana industry" that advocates talked about preserving in the 26 hours of hearings held on the various bills seeking to deal with a situation that Governor Schweitzer correctly characterized as "the Wild West."
SB 423 is working. It has allowed those cities and towns that wished for more local control to exercise it. It has tightened qualifications for issuance of the cards and card numbers have fallen dramatically. The average age of card holders has increased.
Repealing SB 423 will bring back an unregulated Wild West situation that was never presented to the voters. SB 423 honors the intent of Montana voters to have a regulated program to help a small population of truly ill individuals. Vote FOR SB 423.
Sen. Jeff Essmann and Rep. Cary Smith
Rebuttal Argument Against SB 423
The politicians arguing for SB 423 fail to mention that they led the charge to completely repeal Montana's voter-approved medical marijuana law.
Only after the governor vetoed their repeal bill did they create SB 423, which also repeals our voter initiative, then replaces it with a flawed, unworkable law. Their goal was still repeal - not honoring voter intent.
Bottom line: SB 423 does not work for patients. It gives them no safe and legal access to medical marijuana when recommended by a doctor. SB 423 also makes it much harder for doctors to care for eligible patients.
SB 423 doesn't regulate medical marijuana, it nullifies patients' rights. That disrespects the will of the voters.
Helping patients was never the goal of SB 423. Pushing medical marijuana underground was the goal.
Please vote AGAINST SB 423. It's the first step to getting a new bill and new regulations that work.
Bipartisan Support for Patients' Rights
After passage of this unworkable new law, the major political parties came out in favor of "safe access" and a "workable and realistic" regulatory system for medical marijuana. SB 423 was not the right answer.
Vote AGAINST SB 423 to tell the politicians to listen to the patients and doctors.
Only a vote AGAINST SB 423 sends a clear message:
• Come up with a workable system for medical marijuana.
• Protect patients AND communities.
• Keep faith with the voters - for real this time.
Dr. Edwin Stickney
Sarah Baugh and Lori Burnam, patients
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