Medical Marijuana Repeal Bill Faces Heavy Opposition In MT


Photo: Eliza Wiley/Independent Record
Kathy Moore of Three Forks, Montana waits at the Capitol in Helena to voice her opposition to House Bill 161, which would repeal the Medical Marijuana Act.

​Opponents of a bill that would repeal a 2004 voter-passed medical marijuana law outnumbered supporters by 3-to-1 among those signed up to speak to the Montana House on Wednesday.

House Bill 161, sponsored by House Speaker Mike Milburn (R-Cascade) was at issue before the House Human Services Committee, reports Charles S. Johnson at The Billings Gazette. The preliminary count of people signed up to speak showed 86 opponents and 28 supporters of repealing the state’s medical marijuana law.
The committee took no immediate action on the bill.
Milburn complained about the huge increase in numbers of people obtaining medical marijuana cards, with more than 28,000 patients now in Montana. He bemoaned “what it has done to Montana” and its schools, cities and towns with “the increased use of marijuana by teens.”
“So it’s no longer an issue of medical marijuana,” Milburn claimed. “It’s an issue of marijuana. We’ve opened the floodgate. It’s like Hurricane Katrina. We’re not talking about the dikes holding back the water anymore. We’re talking about how do you rebuild the city.”

Photo: Eliza Wiley/Independent Record
Rep. Mike Milburn (R-Cascade), Speaker of the Montana House and sponsor of HB 161, begins Wednesday’s hearing for the bill, which would repeal Montana’s Medical Marijuana Act.

​Milburn dramatically claimed Montana is fast “developing a reputation” nationally as being a place “where people can come and buy their marijuana.”
Then this over-dramatic, pompous windbag actually claimed there are no scientific studies that prove marijuana has any medicinal value.
“We need to shut this industry down,” Milburn said. “We need to take another look at it. We need to start over. We need to do it in a calculated and reasonable fashion,” he said, ironically while showing absolutely no sign of any capacity for calculation or reason, either.
Outside the hearing room, medical marijuana supporters carried signs that read, “Mr. Milburn, Keep Your Hands Off My Medicine.”
Inside the hearing room, opponents of repealing medical marijuana — some in wheelchairs and others using crutches — told how using cannabis medicinally had helped with their medical problems.
“Without medical marijuana, I wouldn’t make it as far as I did with my life,” said Jeff Swenson, who spoke from a wheelchair.
Tess Raunig, also in a wheelchair, said she was born with cystic fibrosis that left her with spastic muscles.
She said she discovered last year that medical marijuana worked much better than any of the prescription muscle relaxants she had tried without all the side effects like depression and anxiety.
“I am a productive member of society,” Raunig said. “I hold three jobs. One of those is a personal therapist for another person with a disability. I don’t believe without medical cannabis I would be able to hold this job. I’m also a straight-A college student. I’m graduating this semester with a degree in vocal performance and entertainment management certificate.
“I’m a good person and I don’t want to be turned into a criminal,” Raunig said.
Katrina Farnum, an herbalist representing Montanans for Responsible Legislation, agreed that the current law needs amendments but said she opposed its repeal, saying that would turn more than 20,000 people int criminals overnight.
“I paid $10,000 in taxes this year, and if I am made a criminal because this bill passes, someone will be giving me a return check for $4,000,” she said.
But there were also people there to support overriding the voters and repealing the medical marijuana law. Those included Candace Payne, representing the Rimrock Foundation, which rips off addicts’ desperate families, oops, that was a typo, I mean “treats people with addictions.” She quoted another Rimrock official who said the use of marijuana by “at-risk” kids now surpasses alcohol.
“Make no mistake about it. Marijuana is a very addictive drug,” she fibbed. “Today’s pot is 25 percent stronger than the pot of the ’60s and the Baby Boom generation… Legalizing medical marijuana has made this drug more accessible to our young people and they are increasingly using it.”
Mark Long, representing the Montana Narcotic Officers Association, claimed that medical marijuana is “close to a $1 billion-a-year unregulated business in Montana,” with, he claimed, “criminal elements infiltrating it” in some cases.
“The market in Montana is tremendously over-saturated with marijuana,” Long claimed. “There’s just not enough patients in Montana to take the marijuana that’s produced.”
Long said many medical marijuana patients he has met are “low-income or fixed-income people,” so he wonders “where all the money is coming from.”
Officer Long was really on a roll now. Law enforcement officers in other states refer to Montana as “a source country,” he told his wide-eyed audience. (Have you ever heard this? I know, me neither.)
Susan Smith of Billings, another medical marijuana opponent and thus supporter of the bill to repeal it, is one of the mothers who helped start “Safe Communities, Safe Kids,” a group that collected almost 20,000 signatures trying to put a repeal initiative on the 2010 ballot. The group failed, falling about 5,000 names short.
Smith claimed that Montanans now know they have been “lied to, duped and deceived regarding current medical marijuana law.” She conveniently ignored the results of a 2010 newspaper poll which found that 56 percent of Montanans would still vote to legalize medical marijuana in their state.
She would hold legislators “morally responsible as a governing body” for the decision they made on medical marijuana repeal, Smith said.
“Are you willing to ruin our communities and families in this state?” Smith asked, still smarting from that “C” in high school drama class. “The devastation and heartbreak has already touched the lives of many.”