Handicapping a skirmish in the war on drugs:
At stake is the right to keep, smoke and sell marijuana. If pot proponents win, Montana could be the first state to legalize the godless weed.
If the weed warriors lose, Republican Legislators will outlaw even the mention of cannabis - maybe even the thought of the stuff.
In 2004 the cannabis corps made law in the streets, gathering signatures to put medical marijuana to a vote. Initiative 148 passed by a 2-to-1 margin.
The federal ban on marijuana remained in effect. Medical marijuana was legal in Montana but still illegal in the United States. Since Montana was squarely a part of the U.S. of A., the new law legalized nothing.
When the Obama administration announced it would not enforce the federal prohibition, the number of vendors bloomed and the number of card holders exploded.
A “patient” needed a card signed by a doctor to buy medical marijuana. Such cards were as easy to obtain as a forged note from your mother.
When the amnesty for MM vendors and patients was lifted, the Feds made a series of aggressive raids on vendors, confiscating marijuana plants, equipment and cash. The raids were intended to be a warning from the U.S. Department of Justice.
When the Legislature met again, solons passed a bill to gut the popular initiative.
Legislators labeled new legislation “reform of the MM statute.” Marijuana proponents called it a repeal measure. The law would limit vendors to three customers. Vendors would be barred from charging for their product.
Patients for Reform – Not Repeal gathered 36,000 signatures to put the new law on the ballot as Initiative 124 and called on voters to kill the law.
Montana First took the fight a step further. The group’s Constitutional Initiative 110 is an attempt to legalize marijuana use and sale by all adults.
CI 110 is in trouble.
Montana First started its campaign for CI 110 with showings of a documentary film: “Code of the West.” The shows featured panel presentations with advocates from both sides discussing the medical marijuana law, its history and the upcoming election in November.
Looking much like too little too late, Montana First had collected 10,000 signatures at the end of three months last week and needed at least another 40,000 in three weeks.
If you wonder why street corners are becoming crowded with young men and women carrying clipboards, here’s a look at ballot issues competing for signatures:
• CI 107 would allow a person accused of a crime to argue to the jury the merits of the law.
• CI 108, an anti-abortion measure, would amend the Montana Constitution to define “person” to include all human beings at all stages of development, including fertilization and development.
• CI 109 would block the Legislature’s repeal of laws enacted through voter initiatives.
• Statutory Initiative 166 would charge Montana elected and appointed officials, state and federal, with implementing a policy that corporations are not human beings with constitutional rights.
A number of issues stirred excitement in Helena and Missoula, but talk is cheap and it costs money to buy whiskey. A sample of the talked-about but not acted upon initiatives:
• Attempts to legalize deer hunting with spears or bear hunting with a switch were withdrawn by their sponsors.
• An initiative to lift all prohibitions on the home delivery of wine.
• A ballot issue that could have made Bentonite our state dirt.
I once joined a state senator in a campaign to make the magpie our state bird. The legislator later ran for Congress. I ran for the hills.
My prayer: Give me liberty or give me something else.