The party's over, folks. The Montana Legislature put the kibosh on the state's booming medical marijuana industry. Gov. Brian Schweitzer says he'll let their efforts become law July 1. Say bye-bye to profit, storefronts, ubiquitous advertising, and easy access to that dank OG Kush.
It seems like just yesterday that Jason Christ was driving his "cannabis caravan" around Montana, herding hundreds of patients a day through makeshift clinics. He told the Indy over a year ago that he'd soon be a millionaire. Oh, for the good ol' days.
Actually, it was just that kind of obnoxiousness and greed on the part of a small but visible segment of the industry that can be partly blamed for the legislature all but repealing Montana's voter-approved medical marijuana law. The backlash was swift, and the legitimate patients among the 30,000 on the state's rolls now find themselves wondering how they're going to get medicine.
Of course, Christ got a big assist from perhaps the most conservative collection of lawmakers in decades. The Republican majority was hell-bent on getting the pot scourge out of schools, just as if students over at Hellgate High weren't getting stoned before. It's only because Schweitzer, a Democrat, wields a veto pen that the law survived at all.
As long as we're passing out blame, we have to look at the feds. Rep. Diane Sands of Missoula, who chaired the interim committee that wrote a comprehensive reform bill Republican leadership essentially ignored, says that while the U.S. Department of Justice stated it wouldn't focus its resources on prosecuting patients, it was silent on how it would deal with the industry that grows around them. "It disturbs me that they basically, in some ways, suckered all kinds of people into thinking they were going to be legal and protected when they never were," Sands says. "If they had been totally clear from the beginning, I don't think this industrial model would have arisen."
And a couple dozen medical marijuana shops wouldn't have had their plants, growing supplies, and assets seized by federal agents in March.
Sands says it's time for medical marijuana proponents to focus on getting the federal government to take marijuana off the Schedule 1 list of controlled substances. "I have to believe that with all of these states that have medical marijuana, if people directed their attention to the congressional level, this could get fixed—because you're in a nebulous gray area forever until that happens."