The Billings Outpost

Medical marijuana vote makes fine muddle

Seasoned politicians will affirm that no one lacking a cast iron stomach should witness the making of sausage or law. Either can be traumatic.

It is bad enough if these products are created in a butcher shop or legislative chambers. But law (or sausage) made in the street will twist the entrails of the most durable citizen.

I have tasted a bit of each of these practices. In addition: I have been bitten on the great toe by an ant as big as a young mouse, sat through every syllable of a 90-minute speech at a Head Start graduation and lived on yellow vegetables for 18 days.

I pray the Deity doesn’t let me live long enough to repeat any of these adventures, but if He does, let it not be the act of freelance legislation. My stomach could not stand the strain, and both kidneys and spleen would likely explode.

Voting for a human being is such an easy exercise. Read the name. Mark an “X.” Go on to the next.

Voting for an initiative is like studying for the bar.

Montanans will find five voter initiatives on the ballot this year. A 48-page publication will tell you more than you want to know about these chunks of legislation. After reading the pamphlet from cover to cover, I felt as if I had just eaten two quarts of sugar or 18 raw eggs. Suffice it to say, I had enough.

I slogged through descriptions of Legislative Referendum 120 (requiring parental notification prior to an abortion for a minor) and Legislative Referendum 121 (Denying food stamps, drivers license, primary and secondary education and other state services to illegal aliens). The Montana secretary of state burned 3,200 words on this pair. I studied the descriptions and arguments pro and con until my eyes crossed. I would recommend that you go with your gut on 120 and 121. Just a hint: Both are conservative.

The defeat of Initiative Referendum 124 would return Montana law on medical marijuana to 2004, when Montana voters approved IR 148, legalizing marijuana for certain patients with debilitating medical conditions.

It was a faddish notion, a daring proposition. Medical marijuana proponents were seen by many as a gang of pot-smoking hippies. Be that so or not, they certainly were not a delegation from the American Medical Association or a council of Missouri Synod Lutherans.

They were young, energetic, mostly college students encouraged by national organizations pursuing the same goal. Medical marijuana promoters took to the streets, shopping malls and college campuses to gather the signatures needed to put Initiative Referendum 148 on the ballot.

Sausage became law. Medical marijuana (whatever that was) became legal in Montana. However, federal codes still outlawed Marijuana - medicinal, over the counter or in any other form.

In brief, marijuana could be used for medical purposes anywhere in Montana that was not part of the United States. Then, an unexpected event made legal pot a hot commodity once more. A new president announced that the feds would no longer prosecute (or persecute) anyone smoking marijuana, selling the stuff or speculating in marijuana futures.

The announcement triggered a bull market in medical marijuana. Pot emporiums opened on main streets and back streets, selling their ware to anyone with a state-issued marijuana card. The number of Montanans certified as “patients” peaked at 31,000 plus. Marijuana caravans toured the state.

Some carried out-of-state doctors aboard to sign cards for new patients. Pot opponents suspected that many of these new card holders were suffering from a condition that might be called “Jonesing for weed.”

All this venture capitalism enraged a Republican Legislature. HB 161 repealed the referendum. Gov. Brian Schweitzer vetoed HB 161 with a red hot branding iron. The medical marijuana consumers across the state cheered. Vendors rejoiced.

The celebration came to a crashing end when Senate Majority Leader Jeff Essmann dove in and drafted a hard line adjustment to the new marijuana initiative – Senate Bill 423, a bill that will remain in place if IR-124 passes. Essmann’s measure limited sale of marijuana, limited the number of customers a vendor might have and forced marijuana sellers to give the stuff away.

That last condition was a jab at vendors who pretended they were serving the suffering masses. As if to say, “If you aspire to martyrdom, help yourself.”

Copyright 2012 Wild Raspberry Inc.

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