By "Radical" Russ Belville
(Billings Gazette) HELENA — By a 3-to-1 margin, opponents outnumbered supporters of a bill Wednesday that would repeal Montana’s 2004 voter-passed law legalizing the use of medical marijuana in the state.
At issue before the House Human Services Committee was House Bill 161, by House Speaker Mike Milburn, R-Cascade. The preliminary count of people signed up to speak showed 86 opponents and 28 supporters of the bill. The committee took no immediate [action] on the vote.
Milburn talked about the huge increase in people obtaining medical marijuana cards — more than 28,000 people now have them — and what it has done to Montana and its schools, cities and towns with the increased use of marijuana by teens.
As I pointed out before, Rep. Milburn is pulling that stat from the Department of Right Outta His Ass. Marijuana use by 12-17 year-olds in Montana has dropped 28.7% since the enactment of medical marijuana in 2004. That’s from the Department of Substance Abuse and Mental Health of the federal government, which noted in 2002-2003 (before medical marijuana) 12.07% of Montana 12-17 year-olds used cannabis monthly, a figure that is 8.6% in 2007-2008 (latest data available).
He said there are no scientific studies that prove marijuana has any medicinal value, a claim disputed by opponents.
Well, if the guy can’t read government statistics on teen use, you can’t expect him to pore over 19,000 published scientific studies documenting the medical efficacy of cannabis.
Meanwhile, supporters of HB161 included Candace Payne, representing the Rimrock Foundation, which treats people with additions [sic]. She quoted a Rimrock official who said the use of marijuana by at-risk kids now surpasses alcohol.
“Make no mistake about it,” she said. “Marijuana is a very addictive drug. 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 assessable [sic] to our young people and they are increasingly using it.”
Again, young people are using cannabis less. But it is nice to see an addictions counselor claiming today’s pot is only 25% more potent, which is a reasonable assessment. Regardless, why is youth abuse of a medicine reason to ban its responsible use by adults? The fastest growing drug fad with teens is prescription pill abuse – do we ban pills for adults then?
Mark Long, representing the Montana Narcotic Officers Association, estimated that medical marijuana is probably close to a $1 billion-a-year unregulated business in Montana, with, in some cases, criminal elements infiltrating it.
A billion dollar business in Montana? Why, you’d think someone would rather tax and regulate that then pretend that we can repeal it out of business. Do you think those 28,000 patients are going to stop using cannabis?
Long said many of the medical marijuana patients he’s met are low-income or fixed-income people, so he wonders where all the money is coming from.
So now we assume that poor sick and disabled people must be dealers? Officer Long, the network of patients struggling to get by under the inadequate system of medical marijuana have long been assisting each other through shared cultivation and altruistic donations.
Montana does have a small subset of carpetbaggers and shady characters taking advantage of the medical marijuana law – every medical marijuana state does. But that does not mandate we repeal a law that is working as intended for the vast majority it covers any more than we end the Food Stamp, Social Security, or Medicare programs because some people abuse them.
The most sensible solution is regulation of marijuana cultivation and access for all people, even healthy ones, but we know that will take a while. In the meantime, don’t turn 28,000 Montanans into criminals again for merely trying to follow the law to gain non-toxic, effective relief from an herb.