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Spotlight on Medical Marijuana – Gov. Bullock, Sen. Tester, Ochenski, John Heenan Weigh in

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From Governor Bullock’s office: Governor Bullock is standing with Montanans. Their voice has been heard twice at the polls and he will continue to implement Montana’s state law that allow Montanans with debilitating medical issues to get access to medical marijuana.

Senator Tester: I think the Montana voters were right when they passed the medical marijuana component.

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United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions has caused a firestorm in America with his reactionary decision to attack legal and medical marijuana. Here in Montana we are particularly unimpressed with this federal overreach and will not be taking it sitting down.

Much has already been written about this in the Montana press, candidates and elected officials have started to weigh in as well.

First George Ochenski wrote this piece for the Missoulian:

Montana politicians on the horns of a marijuana dilemma

by George Ochenski for the Missoulian:

Regulated, inspected and taxed marijuana products bringing in billions in new revenue for the states, while the latest Gallup poll shows a whopping 64 percent of Americans believe marijuana should be legalized.

Here in Montana, we’ve had our own roller-coaster ride with the issue of legalized medical marijuana. Citizens overwhelmingly approved its use in a citizen initiative in 2004, after which the Republican-dominated legislature decided to override the initiative with much more restrictive provisions. Citizens fought back and in 2016, passed another initiative to ease the legislature’s burdensome measures.

That was soon followed by John Heenan, Democratic Congressional Candidate, who is challenging Rep. Greg Gianforte.

John Heenan added this to the debate:

John Heenan: Federal Overreach on Montana Medical Marijuana

text from the Missoulian:

While the state of Montana continues to walk a careful line regarding the legalization of marijuana, none of our citizens should have to live in fear of federal law enforcement officers kicking down doors or arresting people for the legal use of medical marijuana.

As our state government continues to struggle with financing basic services, our Montana state legislators and our governor should have every option open to consider expanding the legalization, regulation and taxing the sale of marijuana. The federal government should not take that power away from Montanans and our elected representatives.

I decided to chime in yesterday.

Montanans Have Twice Endorsed Medical Marijuana – Why Do Republicans Keep Attacking it? via The Montana Post:

We’ve heard crickets from the Steve Daines and Greg Gianforte.

Senator Daines even voted to confirm Jeff Sessions knowing full well his archaic views on marijuana laws in this country.

Montana voters have spoken twice now through ballot initiatives to support medical marijuana for patients. Daines and Gianforte and their Republican friends, Jeff Essmann and Steve Zabawa, have tried to reverse the people’s decision again, and again, and again.

Jon Tester was asked on Montana Public Radio his stance on the issue and had this to say:

transcript via Montana Public Radio:

Montana Public Radio: I want to switch to marijuana. Earlier this month, the attorney general showed his intent to reverse Obama-era marijuana regulations. How do you feel about that and what does that mean for Montana?

Senator Jon Tester: I don’t know how the Department of Justice is gonna move forward with this, I think state’s rights do need to be respected in this situation and there’s plenty of argument out there that says that alcohol is far worse than marijuana and I will tell you that’s hard to debate. But the truth is that I think the Montana voters were right when they passed the medical marijuana component. As far as over full legalization, I’m not too crazy about that. But we’ll see how Sessions, who is the attorney general, is going to deal with this issue. I think if he starts running over state’s rights he’s going to have some problems on this issue.

Governor Bullock’s office issued this statement:

Governor Bullock is standing with Montanans. Their voice has been heard twice at the polls and he will continue to implement Montana’s state law that allow Montanans with debilitating medical issues to get access to medical marijuana.

Dan Brooks from the Missoula Independent joined the conversation too:

Brooks: Jon Tester should ride weed all the way to re-election

by Dan Brooks for the Missoula Independent:

As a federalist, Sessions is normally a vehement defender of states’ rights. During his confirmation hearings, for example, he said the Voting Rights Act—which gave the DOJ authority to oversee elections in states that have historically disenfranchised minorities—was “intrusive.” He said the same thing about federal investigations into police abuses and about requiring states to recognize same-sex marriage. Yet even though he upholds the right of states to keep black people from voting and gay people from getting married, he draws the line at their right to legalize marijuana.

It’s probably just a coincidence that all three of these issues disproportionately affect minorities. The point is that Sessions stops being a federalist when the joint comes around, and that puts Montana—along with 28 other states that have decriminalized marijuana—in a tough position. Suddenly, federal prosecutors can swoop down upon any of the dispensaries that have opened in the last year, or any of the growers that supply them, or any of the banks that take their deposits.

This makes me think back to an excellent piece that attorney, cancer-survivor, medical marijuana patient, and friend Katie Mazurek wrote in the fall of 2016 when Medical Marijuana was on the ballot a second time, she wrote this then:

Medical Marijuana and Me

by Katie Mazurek excerpts via Katie Over Cancer:

Each time I think of writing my thoughts about medical marijuana I get overwhelmed. Every day I spend working on this project I learn more about the legitimate, helpful properties of this plant. I have studied the language of I-182 and have looked closely at the arguments on both sides. Most compelling, I have met more patients and heard more stories about the healing and relief they find in using cannibis. Frankly, it is hard sometimes to distill all this information down into simple, digestible talking points. Yet, I want to share with you my main reasons I stand behind this initiative, so here is what I want you to know:

I never used marijuana before my cancer diagnosis. I was too scared to commit a crime and I didn’t have a need for the drug in my life. I used it for the first time while in Washington in May when I was visiting a friend who was going to school in Seattle. Washington has recreational use marijuana and I was in the middle of a pain crisis from chemotherapy. I used it once there, it completely resolved my pain, and I was able to get a full night’s sleep- something I hadn’t enjoyed in months

Marijuana is amazing. The healing/relief properties of this plant are astonishing. There is so much this plant can do for the ill among us and we are only just starting to tap its resources. Marijuana has literally saved lives while being non-toxic and completely non-lethal. You cannot overdose on this drug. That is not a made up fact, that is science (google the endo cannabanoid system). It takes people off dangerous opioids (pain killers) and gives them their quality of life back. For example, one epilepsy patient reduced her seizures from 200-300 per week to 3-5 per week. Another patient’s life was saved by cannibis as she lay still cut open from surgery in a hospital room when she had a serious medical reaction. Her doctors ordered medical marijuana in her case as an option of last resort and it saved her life. You didn’t know cannibis was so powerful? Neither did I. Cool, huh?

The program is an excellent start. There are lots of things I-182 does beyond extend the number of patients a grower can provide for. It puts important rules in place that protect the public and patients. It makes the medical marijuana program safer, more accountable, more transparent, and more regulated while also making it reasonably accessible. As a lawyer who has studied the language of the initiative, I am impressed with the level of thought and clarity that has gone into I-182. I strongly feel that it is an excellent base to move Montana in the right direction of compassionate care for the sick and suffering among us.

Despite my attempts to be brief, it’s obvious from the above that there is a lot of discussion to be had on the issue. I am not thrilled about having to discuss my disease and treatment so intimately and so publically. It’s personal and I’m already struggling mightily. I’m also not happy that the opposition to this movement relies on fear rhetoric, misdirection, lies and manipulation to make his argument. I’d much rather debate the real policy of the issue and not subject myself to personal attacks. However, I do not find it hard to do the right thing at the right time, so my advocacy of I-182 is natural and necessary in my mind. I’m going to keep fighting for what I know is a compassionate law in our state. I will continue to be the voice for so many of us who need to be heard in this movement until election day. And then I’m going to take a nap because this is exhausting.

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