Montana Politics

So Much for the “Free Market” GOP

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I don’t know how I feel about the ‘compromise’ reached in the Senate regarding medical marijuana.

First of all, the methodology is not good lawmaking practice. I’ll admit there’s a problem, sure. But without any sort of evidence provided, they are deciding that they need to drastically reduce the number of card holders statewide. I would like some better evidence than rumors and hunches if they are planning to reduce the number of cardholders by a factor of 14.

Moreover, the idea to ‘squeeze the profits’ out of medical marijuana seems to be a huge slap in the face to those who have tried to legitimize it. Why recognize something as a medicine, only to then say “oh, but you can’t provide it for a profit”? It seems like this would reduce the level of service provided to MM patients, as well as reducing their options.

Finally, the requirement to sell therapeutic marijuana ‘at cost’ seems like it will almost certainly result in many caregivers also selling recreational marijuana. After all, it provides legal cover for the production of seeds and plants (especially if it is enforced as well as the current rule) without providing a legal way to turn those into profit.

The one potential upside – maybe if we can make cannabis production work not-for-profit, maybe next we can try to ‘squeeze the profit’, at least to some extent, from the rest of the drug industry.

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The Polish Wolf

44 Comments

  • PW, from your link: “To obtain a card for severe and chronic pain, patients would be required to have an established professional relationship with a primary care physician that includes at least four visits in six months. A doctor who is a pain management specialist would have to review the patients’ records and concur.”

    I see that as the mechanism to reduce users by requiring professional consultation in the administration of any habit forming narcotic.

    • I would agree, if cannabis were a narcotic. The fact is that it’s not, and it is far less habit forming than most prescription painkillers. It ought to be regulated like any other painkiller of similar power and addictiveness.

      • PW, weed not a narcotic? When did it lose its status as a Schedule 1 narcotic: http://www.justice.gov/dea/pubs/scheduling.html

        As to it’s addictiveness and utility: http://www.justice.gov/dea/ongoing/marijuana.html

        As to “legitimizing” it’s dispensing and use, following protocol for other similar Schedule 1 drugs seems to be the purpose of having a doctor involved in regular consultation with the patient as contemplated by this legislative effort.

        • Weed is a ‘narcotic’ only by virtue of its illegality – medically or chemically speaking it does not have much in common with opiates, which generally define the class of medical narcotics. It is telling that both of your sources are from the DEA – they kind of have to say that, don’t they? If the US outlawed aspirin, it would technically become legally a narcotic, but that wouldn’t increase it’s narcotic properties any.

          Indeed, the fact the oxycodone is a Schedule II drug despite a demonstrably higher potential for abuse shows that the entire schedule system is based less on scientific or medical bases and more on cultural and political factors. There are doctors in Montana who have prescribed cannabis legitimately and in the full belief that it has therapeutic potential. Clearly the controlled substances act needs to be updated to reflect the fact that much more destructive substances are being prescribed frequently.

          • PW, a narcotic is a substance that causes a stupor and sleep, narcosis, or narcoma.

            Those DEA sources have many footnotes to authoritative sources. They didn’t just make it up. If you disagree with those sources please advise with specifics.

            If it’s truly about legitimacy then follow a protocol as outlined by the compromise legislation.

            As I wrote on your companion weed post, IMHO, calling smoked weed “medicine” is a bastardization of the term. My concept of medicine is that a drug is developed to alleviate a certain malady while limiting side effects. The chemical in weed can be reduced to a pill, a patch, or even dispensed in an atomized form like asthma sufferers use. It simply is not necessary to ingest weed smoke to get the analgesic effect. The smoke creates other unnecessary health hazards for chronic long term users.

            That being said, I don’t care what adults do with weed or how they ingest it… so long as such habitual use and its complications are excluded from health insurance or SSI/DI qualification. Be a “stoner,” fine. Just accept life without funding and social service support from your neighbors to support the habit and and alleviate the consequential effects.

            • Kailey’s note on comparing cannabis to other frequently prescribed mind altering drugs is quite strong, I would only add this – I agree that smoking cannabis is probably the worst way to deliver the medicine. I clearly irritates the lungs, and creates therapeutic effects that come quickly and fade just as quickly. It’s proven the THC ingested has effects for a longer period of time.

              HOWEVER – getting cannabis into a form that is more suited to medicine and less suited to recreational use takes a little bit of work and experience. There’s a reason we don’t have laws forcing commerce to take place at-cost – it kills innovation. Limiting so severely the profit and potential scale of such enterprises makes it much more likely that the only accessible form of cannabis will be smoked.

              And one final note – I believe Pogie and I have similar opinions on recreational cannabis use – we’ve both seen too many very clever minds dulled by this particular plant. But frequently efforts to combat the abuse of cannabis ruins more lives than it helps, and this bill I think falls under that same category.

              Guest – my grandmother was prescribed alcohol shortly before she died, though I don’t think she ever followed through.

            • Mr Moore – I appreciate your comments re: medical cannabis – and would like to offer some education, as I am a patient.

              First – read Donald P Tashkin’s study.

              http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/25/AR2006052501729.html

              Tashkin was paid by the Fed govt to conduct a 10 year study to prove that cannabis caused lung cancer. What he actually found was completely opposite – and they actually recommend that folks who smoke cigarettes should smoke cannabis as a preventive measure. There are some fascinating papers and videos on cancer prevention – and some even mutter “cure”.

              Now – re: smoking as a medicine.

              Have you ever been nauseous? I don’t mean “flu like pukey” nauseous – or car sick – I mean CHEMO nauseous. It encompasses a persons entire body – and is HORRID.

              Try to get a pill into that. Ask a cancer patient sometime. It’s NOT pretty – and IMPOSSIBLE to keep a pill down.

              Smoking cannabis is a much more titered dose – and the digestive tract is completely avoided. When nauseous – the patient can smoke a couple puffs – see how they feel – and gauge if they need more. This is IMPOSSIBLE with pills. Smoking cannabis is actually more EXACT for the patient – as you don’t have to wait an hour for the pill to kick in – and kick your butt.

              In my own case – when my arms seize up and hands spasm – I can smoke and stop it almost immediately. When I was on the pills – I seized and hurt until the pill kicked in – and then I was so impaired by the pill- I couldn’t function. Reduce dosage of pill – and no effect for pain and spasms.

              Vicious circle.

              With cannabis – I can have “just enough” and get immediate relief. I also do not have to be impaired. My body uses the cannabinoids and I only need enough to quit hurting – and carry on with my duties. When I was on the pill poppin regime – I did nothing – as I couldn’t.

              That is what most f us fear with repeal and huge reduction of numbers. Losing our freedom. FINALLY free from chemicals for 2 years!

              My legislators want to force me back on them. MAKE me a pill popper.

              I despise them for that. I should NEVER have to put a chemical in my body I don’t want to. Take away my medical cannabis – and that is what they are doing.

              Chemical imprisonment.

              • Thanks for the comment – that’s a good point, that smoking is certainly faster than taking pills, though by the same token you have to do it more often to keep the effect. Some kind of inhaler product would be superior in some cases, as it would be more portable and convenient, as well as more discreet and easier on the lungs. That sort of product, however, will not be viable without a profit motive and some kind of guarantee that any capital investment will not be destroyed on the whims of the Federal government.

    • Oh bullshit, craig. Did they ever let that pain doc in Billings out of jail for prescribing pain meds? A doctor who is “a pain management specialist” runs a GREAT risk of running afoul of the law! Big pharma is running the show, and you know it! This is a bullshit attempt to circumvent the will of the people. I saw this essman dude on TV, and he’s sleazy as they come. My immediate thought was what a rightwing asshole.

      • Perfect description of Essman. The day I was at the Senate hearing I felt true EVIL emanating from him. Made the hair stand up on the back of my neck!

        Thank you Hiedi! Chemical imprisonment that’s what I am facing. I was free from it for over a year.

        AND CraigMoore I have been reading your comments on several of the blogs here. I would love to throw out a list of names I’d like to call you but I’m sure that would just serve your purpose. I wanted to give you a bit of info since you seem to think SB423 is such a workable solution. First of all, due to where I live and lack of actual MD’s I see a PA. I also don’t see her 4 times a year as I am no longer on opiate pain killers. Most of my pain is not explained or confirmed by X-Rays or MRIs as I have FMS. Finally, when I do go about establishing a relationship with an MD. Getting all the necessary tests and seeing that specialist. This will all be coming out of my pocket, as I have no health insurance. I am figuring about $5000 or $6000 in debt, sure don’t have that kind of money laying around. Also! it will be very difficult for me to work (to pay off that dept) as I will either be in excruciating pain or be doped up on pills. REMEMBER! I will also have no access to MM from July 1 to Oct 1. OK I will throw out one name…. insensitive! Thanks Craig!

  • but of course, if MJ were to become legal, Pfizer and other big pharma might lose a lot of money. be interesting to know how much of their shadow lobbyists budget is spent on bribing politicians in order to keep MJ out of the mainstream.

  • Ignoring the Narcotic/Not a Narcotic debate because the experts can’t even agree, let’s look at this in a much more basic (read logical) light. When did the Montana Government require Oxycotin to be sold at cost? When did hte Montana Government pass a law for Demarol to be sold at cost? When did the Montana Government pass a law for Ritalin to be sold at cost? Did I miss a rash of regulation bills while I was working on my house? All of these drugs are controlled, all of them require perscriptions and yet all of them end up being sold on the street. I don’t get where the Montana Legislature (supposedly supporting both Free Market and Business), gets off passing such nanny state regulations on a perscription drug – singling it out from every other perscription drug.

  • The last 2 comments seem to exhibit the heightened sense of paranoia that is not uncommonly experienced by weed aficionados or others who self medicate with alcohol.

    Real prescription “medicine” usually comes with dosing instructions, controlled drug strength levels, drug interaction information, and side effect warnings. It requires interaction with a real health care professional. It also has limitations on supply refills.

    When weed transitions to the control boundaries of “legitimate” medicine, administered in a fashion that does not cause other harm, it too will gain legitimacy. I think that is the point of the compromise legislation.

    • But that’s exactly my point – cannabis will never transition to the boundaries of legitimate medicine if you can only sell it at cost. There currently exist a wide variety of ways to ingest THC for medicinal purposes without smoking it. However, these take a bit more effort than smoking, and so are unlikely to be pursued in an environment where providers are disallowed from making a profit.

      Think about any other business, Craig. Price ceilings lead to inefficiently low quality – it’s Econ 101. I agree that if we’re serious about using cannabis medically, we need to treat it like medicine. But this compromise bill does nothing of the sort, from what I can tell – where is the instruction for dosing requirements, controlled drug strength levels, or drug interaction information? I don’t see it! It is a punitive measure aimed at punishing cannabis providers (because a few cannabis providers have been publicly obnoxious) without addressing the fundamental problems – this medication is often taken in such a way as to harm the lungs, it is rarely of controlled strength, etc.

      • Pee Dubya: “I agree that if we’re serious about using cannabis medically, we need to treat it like medicine. But this compromise bill does nothing of the sort, from what I can tell – where is the instruction for dosing requirements, controlled drug strength levels, or drug interaction information?”

        Again from your article: “To obtain a card for severe and chronic pain, patients would be required to have an established professional relationship with a primary care physician that includes at least four visits in six months. A doctor who is a pain management specialist would have to review the patients’ records and concur.”

        As I understand under that protocol procedure the doctor would write a prescription with the required information to go with the green card. Don’t know for certain though as there are professional administrative regulations as well that come into play.

        As to your point about the cost ceiling, I agree. I look to see that changed before this gets anywhere.

        I saw a letter at another blog: http://www.flatheadbeacon.com/articles/article/letter_marijuana_redux/22414/

        John Fuller writes:

        ===quote===
        First, the citizens of Montana “nullified” federal law when they passed their medicinal marijuana initiative. Second, there was no mention of the fact that Montana has become the marijuana producing capital of the entire northern United States. Third, there was no mention of the flooding of our public schools of 15- and 16-year-olds proudly flashing their “green” cards for medicinal marijuana for treatment of cataracts. Fourth, there was no mention of the fact that several producers in Flathead Valley are clearing a profit of over $100,000 a month. And lastly, there was no mention of the fact that the citizens of Montana were deceived by the progressives’ support of the initiative that there would be no unintended consequences for disobeying federal law.
        ===end quote===

        IMHO, the initiative process was a lousy way to go to get this started. Perhaps going “green” in school has taken on a new meaning.

        • Then you and I are largely in agreement, Craig. I do think there should be more requirements for doctor contact – indeed, I think that should be extended to any prescription painkiller. I didn’t see anywhere in the article information about prescribing a particular dosage or method of use, but maybe it is in the bill somewhere. If not, it should be. That clarification, as well as an elimination of the price ceiling, ought to be the top priorities for anyone with any sense in the coming days.

          The letter you quote, however, is full of inaccuracies. It is not ‘nullification’ to change how the state enforces it’s laws; it would be nullification if we tried to prevent the federal government from enforcing those laws. We clearly have not; the federal government has voluntarily chosen not to enforce the law in most circumstances. As to the flood of kids with green cards: There are only 52 kids under the age of 18 with MM cards. That’s about one for every three high schools in Montana, hardly a flood. Everyone should have understood that we were still in violation of federal law – growers knew the risk getting into the business; the $100,000 a month the letter speaks of is compensation for that risk.

          The letter is, thus, mere scare tactics. I don’t like kids smoking pot any more than the next guy, and I have to deal with it on a more regular basis than most, but trying to blame than on medical marijuana is nothing more than a scare tactic.

          • PW, I hope you are right about only 52 kids having a green card. Given privacy laws and all I am skeptical of any quoted number especially given the funny business with the “phone in” consultation and photocopying of signatures.

          • …and there is this from Great Falls: http://safecommt.org/community/great-falls/educators-see-rise-in-student-drug-use-blame-medical-marijuana/

            ===quote===
            More Great Falls teenagers are smoking marijuana than counselors and administrators have ever seen before. Kloppel and Fred Anderson, principal at Great Falls High School, say that is because of the growing use of medical marijuana in the community.

            “I strongly believe it is directly attributable to the increased availability of the drug through caregivers and cardholders,” Kloppel said.

            Counselors say students have taken a more casual approach to marijuana in the past year. They keep hearing students tell them it is medicinal and helps calm them down and relieve stress.

            With no way for officials to test students for marijuana besides taking them to the hospital for a blood test, students — with or without a green card — go unpunished for using the drug.

            “Right now, we don’t have a policy,” Kloppel said in a recent interview.

            “This has become an epidemic,” CMR counselor Earlene Ostberg said. “Some of these kids were going to go to college and now are just going to get a job.”

            In a February 2009 survey among the city’s high-schoolers, 48 percent reported that they have used marijuana, and 5 percent reported using it 10 to 19 times in the last 30 days. The number of students who said they experimented with marijuana was up nearly 10 percent from the 2007 Youth Risk Behavior Survey. The latest national statistics conducted by the CDC show 38.1 percent of teens had used marijuana at least once in their lifetime, according to the 2007 survey.

            “But our data doesn’t reflect how much it’s increased since they started opening up the marijuana stores,” said Mikie Messman, Chemical Awareness/Responsive Education program coordinator for the school district.

            Kloppel and Anderson say there is no question that the use is higher than last year.

            “It’s worse than the early ’70s,” Kloppel said.
            ===end quote===

            Back in the 60’s THC levels were at about 6%. Today they range up to the upper 20%.

        • I would also like to point out that it was our legislature’s failure to institute sane regulations when it had the chance to prevent much of the problems with the Montana Medical Marijuana initiative. I would disagree that the initiative process was “a lousy way to get this started”. It was the ONLY to get it started in Montana because the state legislature refused to start it even when the majority of Montanans requested it be started. Once again, the failure was with our legislature, not the initiative process.

          As far as the letter and it’s quotes, I would have to see where the numbers came from. I highly doubt that Montana is the marijuana producing capital of the North given that I have lived in both Oregon and Washington – both states with medical marijuana laws – and know for a fact that there is a LOT more marijuana produced in those states than there is in Montana. Like PW, I doubt that our schools have been “flooded” with children with green cards too.

          There is no doubt that the failure of the legislature, as well as the anti – marijuana sentiment of our law enforcement and legislative entities put a HUGE kick me sign on Montana’s Medical Marijuana suppliers. The current actions made by the legislature pretty much ensure that A) few people will voluntarily open themselves up to being kicked again, and B) people will go back to buying marijuana illegally which will not only make matters worse but drive the price of street marijuana back up. The failure of our legislature to capitalize on the regulation and taxation of this is so silly, it floors me. People are arguing over the 100 million difference between what the Governor says our revenue will be and what the Republican Majority says it will be, but the legislature could have ensured a large revenue increase had they only acted in good faith on this issue… Stupid beyond belief.

          • ANY state that has to grow indoors primarily will NEVER be a “producing capitol”

            Not cost effective. Also – the growers I know HATE the black market – and actually work to run them off.

            Regulation would assist with that.

        • There are currently 52 children in the registry – very ill children.

          I SERIOUSLY doubt there are 15 and 16 year olds “proudly flashing” their cards. With 52 STATEWIDE – that’s pretty far-fetched.

          Marijuana was in MY highschool in Helena back in the 80’s – and it is still there. It didn’t begin with medical cannabis……

          Education is the key folks. Prohibition has NEVER worked.

      • The solution was in the Greybill….it was ALL in there. Labs….dosing….everything.

        We are already DOING it – making dosed medications tested by labs in both Missoula and Bozeman. Professional labs.

        There are folks out here who REALLY do CARE – and help a LOT of people.

        We are NOT a bunch of criminals…..we are patient. we are MONTANANS too – educated ones.

        I have traveled the state with my trade publication and met MANY of the folks that will be “eradicated” by SB423 – the so called “scourge” – and there are some wonderful folks out here. They just stay out of the newspapers.

    • My physician of 25 years signed my referral. Wait! It’s 2011 – 26 years…..

      How many folks out here have had a personal physician that long? Just curious……

      I mean – this is a person I trust with MY LIFE which is very important to me. He delivered all 4 of my children – I trust him with not only MY life – but theirs too……

      Why do people doctor shop?

  • The other point that is being ignored is that the Montana legislature had the oppurtunity to generate revenue by using the Alcohol model with MJ and they failed to take that advantage. For a supposedly “Conservative” and “Business Friendly” legislature, they missed the boat badly. Now we have added governmental costs and nothing to offset them – in other words, a complete fail of those who ran on a platform of reducing governmental waste, regulation, and cost.

    • Now we have added governmental costs and nothing to offset them

      That’s a really good point. Moreover, we don’t have any agency that WANTS the responsibility – the PSC has voted 5-0 against taking on this additional responsibility.

  • It makes me sick that they want to take it all away……

    People have worked SO hard and are really doing a much better job than what I witnessed in Colorado when I visited there last year.

    • Unlikely – no polls indicate a majority supporting legalization. Indeed, I think that if they put it back to the voters they might well vote to repeal the whole shebang, because the initiative process lacks the finesse needed to properly regulate the industry – you can only vote Yes or No. That’s what we have legislation for – passing complicated solutions that are impossible to discuss as a whole state. Sadly, they are failing, and I think they may be failing on purpose. If they don’t pass any workable solution in the session, they can leave the majority with no choice but to repeal the whole thing. That way, they get what they want and they can’t be accused of undoing the will of the voters – merely of not doing their jobs.

  • Laws should not be arbitrary.   When legislators say they intend on reducing the number of card holders from 30,000 to 2.000,  their actions and legislative intent is purely arbitrary.   

    Oh,  by the way for some of you.    a green card is something an alien gets from immigration to enter this country to work.   The true reference for this card is MMP.  Just sayin……

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