Medical marijuana is legal in Montana, but for how long?

The face of chronic pain

Good news for Montanans with anxiety and subscriptions to Xbox Live: a judge has ruled that medical marijuana providers can start selling to any number of patients immediately. Ballot initiative I-182, which passed in November, was supposed to repeal the three-patient limit that made it impossible to run a dispensary for profit. Unfortunately, a “scrivener’s error” inadvertently delayed repeal until July 2017. Apparently, the authors of the initiative rewrote it at the last minute, changing the section numbers but not changing the part about when which sections took effect.

You don’t see the anti-abortion people making these kinds of mistakes. Anyway, Judge James Reynolds of Helena ruled last week the law’s intent should overrule its letter. He struck down the three-patient limit effective immediately. Doctors in Montana can diagnose patients with chronic pain or PTSD and prescribe legal marijuana, and the market can provide it to them.

It would appear that one of the longest-running controversies in state politics has been settled. The typo that delayed the ballot initiative that repealed the law that worked around the governor’s veto of the repeal of the original ballot initiative that legalized medical marijuana in 2004 has been overruled! When you put it that way, it doesn’t sound like the issue is settled after all. We’re right back where we started, plus PTSD and chronic pain.

When I got to Missoula, dispensaries were everywhere, and so were their products. Between March 2009 and March 2011, the number of medical marijuana cardholders in the state went from 2,000 to 39,000. I talked to electricians who said the greenhouse boom was the best thing that ever happened to their business. Garden suppliers said the same thing. Montana had a growth industry, which is a little like the Cubs having a shot at the World Series.

Enter the party of growth and business. In 2011, Republicans in the state legislature voted to repeal the ballot initiative that legalized medical marijuana—only to be vetoed by then-governor Brian Schweitzer. They passed the three-patient limit for each provider instead, and it worked. No dispensary could stay in business with only three customers. The suit to have that law declared unconstitutional lasted five years—just long enough for November’s ballot initiative, I-182, to repeal the law instead.

It seems this issue has been laid to rest in much the same condition as it arose. A ballot initiative has made medical marijuana legal and done little to limit the number of its patients. We’ve even got a Democratic governor and Republican legislature. Will the opponents of marijuana stop narc-ing out for a minute and leave the voters’ will in force? I hope they do, but I bet they won’t. You can read all about it in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent. I got up and shoveled four inches of snow this morning, and already my sidewalk is covered again. We’ll be back tomorrow with Friday links, snowed-in and cozy with nothing to do but type, just like in The Shining.

Medical marijuana opponent says one hit is like ten beers

People who had one hit and ten beers, respectively

Respective effects of the quantities indicated

Like 2001: A Space Odyssey, the history of Montana’s medical marijuana law is long and interesting only if you’re high. Suffice to say the 2004 legalization has been subject to multiple reversals and amendments from succeeding legislatures, and now the issue has risen to the level of ballot initiatives. Yesterday, Missoula’s City Club debated I-182, to let doctors prescribe marijuana for PTSD and chronic pain. The con position was advanced by Stephen Zabawa—sponsor of his own ballot initiative to ban medical marijuana entirely—who gave us this, via the Missoulian:

“Quite frankly, you can have one beer, and you’re OK,” Zabawa said. However, he equated one “hit” of marijuana to 10 beers and said the active ingredient will “knock your socks off.”

Just try pot, dude. Before you devote your whole year and thousands of donors’ dollars to making sure no one can get pot, take that one hit yourself and see what it does. It’s true that if you drink ten beers, your socks will come off as if by magic. I’ll bet a hundred dollars to your twenty that you don’t get the same effect from one hit, just as soon as we can get to your doctor and make sure you’re not allergic.

Seriously—I call on Stephen Zabawa to smoke some pot. It’s the only responsible thing. After you hear that one hit gets you ratfuck wasted but before you organize a statewide movement, see what it does. If you’re not willing to try it yourself, have friend A take one puff of a joint while you confiscate friend B’s keys, phone and wallet, then make him drink ten beers. I think the difference in their outcomes will surprise you. Until you conduct such an experiment, your activism is the persistence of a man who has no idea what he’s taking about.

I wouldn’t know either, because I never tried grass. It was illegal in New York, and although you could still buy it we could never remember where, because whenever we got any we blacked out and thew up on our dicks. That’s why I stay out of politics. You won’t find me organizing ballot initiatives. Hell, I don’t even vote. I may not know anything, but at least my ignorance knows its bounds.

Friday links! Freedom isn’t free of assault teams edition

A SWAT team assists in the eviction of a Colorado couple from their foreclosed home.

A SWAT team assists in the eviction of a Colorado couple from their foreclosed home.

You can’t have a free country just by letting people do whatever they want. “Your right to swing your arms ends just where the other man’s nose begins,” said Zechariah Chafee, and he makes a good point: how am I to swing my arms if people keep getting their noses in my way? The problem with freedom is that the lower orders will always try to strip it from their betters. Free to have a nice town where I can walk along the river in peace? Nope—some derelict is lying on the bank, spoiling my view. Free to choose my religion and uphold its values? Nope—gay hippies are taking a break from rapping to smoke marijuana out of each other’s buttholes. These people are undermining the country with their laziness and dissipation, and there’s only one way to preserve American liberty: incarcerate them with paramilitary assault teams. Today is Friday, and freedom isn’t free. Won’t you enjoy membership in a class that can still afford it with me?

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Friday links! Terror of democracy edition

In the pantheon of quotes that have no exact wording and are alternately attributed to Oscar Wilde, Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain, perhaps none is more satisfying than “Those who enjoy democracy and sausage should take care to learn as little as possible about how either is made.” Like a public men’s room, democratic self-government is both utterly necessary and really gross. The problem is that so many people are involved. If you’re like me, you can’t help but notice the paradoxical phenomenon that your friends are conscientious, dignified people whose generosity and depth of character makes them an invaluable gift, whereas everyone you don’t know is a stupid asshole. Democracy is a great way to decide what we’re doing on Saturday night, and a terrible way to decide how to reform health care. Or, rather, it’s the second most terrible way to decide that, just after every other means of government ever devised by man. If you think the Tea Party is irritating now, just wait until one of them becomes king. Until then, enjoy this collection of instances of mass opinion, be they public opinion polls, widespread beliefs, popular media or the concentrated retardation that is an elected official. It’s Friday, and we’ve all agreed that for the next two days it’s okay not to work. At least democracy got one thing right.

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