Scott Day, Montana’s most visible medical marijuana patient and an outspoken critic of the Federal Drug Task Force, died unexpectedly Tuesday, Sept. 9, in his home near Dillon. His passing prompted medical marijuana advocates to once again rail against law enforcement for not adhering to a 2004 statewide referendum that allows doctors to legally prescribe the drug.
“Along with our deep anguish comes a lot of anger at law enforcement for hastening his death through the stress and fear they deliberately caused him during his final months,” says Tom Daubert, founder of Patients and Families United, a support group dedicated to medical marijuana patients.
Summer Sutton-Day, Day’s wife, says she found her husband dead at home after he had asphyxiated from a reaction to a drug he recently started taking for extreme anxiety. Day suffered from a rare terminal disease, and treated a variety of conditions and debilitating pain with marijuana cultivated at his home. Neither he nor his wife possessed a registration card as medical users last February when Beaverhead County law enforcement and the Southwest Montana Drug Task Force raided their home. Officers found 96 marijuana plants and charged the couple with federal counts of producing and possessing drugs with the intent to distribute.
“It’s murder. Jed Fitch has blood on his hands, and he needs to know that,” says Sutton-Day, referring to the Beaverhead County prosecuting attorney.
Fitch defended his office’s action in the case.
“I did this job without prior passion,” Fitch says, “and I did not make the charging decision…I had never read his file or met him, and the officers in the case had no idea who he was. They had a report of a large grow operation at a trailer, so they pursued various warrants to search the property.”
But Daubert disagrees. He specifically points to the “affirmative defense” clause contained in state law, which doesn’t require a patient to be registered.
“Nobody knows what it means,” says Fitch, referring to the same clause. “There’s been no judicial interpretation of that clause for us to go by…So the only thing we can do is if they’ve got a card, we leave them alone.”
While Fitch says his office will not prosecute Day now, Sutton-Day’s case awaits a tentative late-February trial date. Funeral arrangements for her husband are being planned for October.