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Last Word: The Lesson of Montana Is Simple: The Legalization War Hasn’t Been Won Just Yet

Montanans can be stubborn people.

I know this from two years as Editor of a newspaper in Great Falls back in the early 1990s, and what stuck me then was two things;

  • People in Montana are extremely proud of their state and most would find it hard to live anywhere else;
  • They are over-the-top concerned out outsiders coming in and taking over everything without any concern about the current needs, or past history, of Montana.

I was one of those outsiders who came in for a couple of years from the worst of all places — California — and although people were courteous and kind to me and my family, I know they always were worried that I was there to do no good.

In my experience, it is hard to change people in Montana, and that’s why I’m not surprised at recent reports about the big pushback against medical marijuana in the Treasure State.

As reports:

The (Montana Cannabis) Industry has been crippled by state legislators and a determined grass-roots opposition. And a state Supreme Court decision coming as early as October could all but wipe it out.

“It’s hard for patients to live like that, not knowing if they’ll have their cards next year,” said Elizabeth Pincolini, who runs a referral service in Billings that connects patients to the few doctors left willing to write marijuana recommendations. “It’s pretty desperate.”

Depending on how the court rules, providers could be banned from charging anything besides $50 license fees and renewals. They could be limited to three patients each and blocked from advertising.

Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have eased restrictions on medical marijuana, with more expected to follow. Montana is the only one going the opposite way.”

Yes, it’s a national story when a state seems to be trying to get rid of its medical marijuana law, but count me as one of those who is not surprised that if this is going to happen, Montana would be the place.

The Helena Independent Record, a Montana newspaper that covers the state capitol, recent noted:

While the nation trends toward acceptance of marijuana, both medicinal and recreational, the drug continues to be a source of controversy in Montana.

Medical marijuana has been the subject of debate, and seen fluctuating waves of public opinion, statewide since its legalization in 2004. “

That last point is worth remembering. As much as we get focused on all the progress and acceptance that medical and recreational marijuana has enjoyed, it IS a topic that continues to generate a great deal of debate. As much as we might like to think that things are all going legalization’s way, that may not always be the case.

There is now, and will continue to be, “fluctuating waves of public opinion” everywhere, and not just in Montana, although the Treasure State shows just what might happen around the country as the love affair with legal cannabis goes south.

As the story from the Helena newspaper notes, it’s the confusion about Montana’s marijuana law, specifically what is legal and allowed, and what is not, that is the problem.

Without precision and clarity from government, both at the state and federal level, people who really need medical marijuana as well as those who just like the recreational variety, are at the mercy of those who enforce the laws.

Montana’s day of reckoning is coming (we hope) with the upcoming state Supreme Court ruling, but others elsewhere may not be so lucky.

The alternative is simple: contact your congressional and state representatives and tell them how you feel about legal marijuana. Call, lobby, and nag as much as you can, because it will take all the persuasive powers we have to get this issue addressed, and fixed, once and for all.


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