The trials are coming up on some of those indicted in connection with the March 14 raids of medical cannabis businesses in Montana. More indictments are expected this fall. In my last post, I questioned, if these people and businesses were breaking state law, why didn’t state law enforcement deal with it? Why were the feds called in? Who called them, and why hasn’t the Attorney General said anything? Attorney General Steve Bullock is the most critical voice Montanans need to hear given his position and the likelihood he’s a gubernatorial candidate.
That was last post. This post I question, what if these individuals or businesses are guilty of breaking state law? What if they were engaged in interstate trafficking, or buying from or selling to the black market?
Stupidity and/or greed are not unimaginable. Nor would be lapses in judgment – the one time foolish choice to buy from the black market when a crop failed, or to sell to the black market just-that-once to cover expenses. But the law doesn’t care what the reason is, and stupidity and greed make innocent by-standers pay a price, even when the stupid or greedy break no laws. Of those indicted, some may have been acting completely within state law, some may have been stupid or greedy, and some may have suffered a lapse in judgment.
We don’t know. And the fact that these are federal charges, and not state ones, means we may not ever know.
But let’s just say the evidence is there. Wrongdoing. Guilty. Unequivocally, no grayness involved, breaking state law. The question remains, why didn’t state law enforcement deal with it? And the question remains, who called in the feds? But a difficult question for those who oppose prohibition is, as much as one might want to box someone’s ears for being stupid, what position does one take when another is guilty of breaking laws that are justified with institutionalized lies?
On the one hand, who wants to stand up for someone who was gaming the system or cheating the game to gain advantage in the new medical cannabis market? Stupidity and greed are not against the law and it’s the stupidity and/or the greed that’s problematic, not cannabis. Those who conducted their businesses with stupidity and/or greed probably conduct other parts of their lives likewise. Yet, as much as greed and stupidity disgust, so does the idea of locking a person away in federal prison for buying and selling a product less dangerous than beer and less lethal than aspirin.
The federal government will put these people on trial.
Meanwhile, the people of this country are putting federal law on trial, state by state.
A decision, when you’re a politician, is a political position. There’s no way around it.
The state had to defend SB 423, the new medical marijuana law, when the Montana Cannabis Industry Association (MTCIA) challenged it. Appealing Judge Reynolds’ temporary injunction, however, was a choice, a political position being taken by the office of an official who is almost certainly running for Governor.
The timing is such that the proceedings for the state’s appeal would come on the heels of the deadline for the referendum to stop SB 423 in its entirety from going into effect and instead place it on 2012 ballot. It seems unlikely the state’s appeal would move forward (and move against the voters) should the signatures be secured. So it may be that they are positioning themselves for the petition’s possible failure, to swoop in, and strike down the bare functionality that was preserved with the partial temporary injunction and do it before the Montana medical marijuana system can stabilize under the new rules.
So, is the Attorney General’s office playing favorites with outcomes, or are they also planning for an outcome where the referendum is successful and the law is suspended? If the people vote to suspend the law and place the issue on the ballot, is the Attorney General’s office strategizing about how to best respect the voters’ will? Or do their plans have only to do with the dismantling of medical marijuana in Montana regardless of the voters’ will?
Granted, they’re in a tricky position. Are they supposed to be defending the law as expressed by the voters and citizens, or defending laws as passed by a legislature acting against the citizens’ will?
Not a call a democracy wants to see their police force having to contemplate.
Patients in Billings have reported that police officers there have confiscated patients’ medical marijuana cards and told them that all cards expired July 1. One patient was arrested and had to be bailed out of jail because of an “expired” card. “All cards expired July 1” is not an onerous interpretation of a gray area in the new law. It’s just flat out wrong. Is the Attorney General’s office providing training to their people? Do they care that some of their officers are misunderstanding or misrepresenting the law at great consequence to law-abiding citizens?
Attorney General, Steve Bullock, has been silent. Questions to his office over the past two years have gone unanswered – not their job to answer the questions of citizens trying to stay within the law, they’ve made it clear.
Bullock was silent in regards to the federal raids, too. If those businesses that were raided were breaking Montana state laws, why didn’t Montana law enforcement go in? Why did the state hand over these citizens to the feds?
Once the feds have the case, Montanans may never know whether those raided were abiding by state medical marijuana laws or not because now they’re being prosecuted under federal law where medical marijuana doesn’t exist. Just marijuana. Schedule 1 drug. More insidious than meth and having no medicinal value.
Once the feds step in
In other words, once the feds step in, state law doesn’t matter. It doesn’t exist.
So, who called whom?
Did the feds show up and tell the state to step back? Did the state challenge that call? Did the state call in the feds knowing that under state law, they would have no case because what the businesses were doing didn’t violate state law, or that there was enough ambiguity in state law not to assure a slam-dunk?
A further question: Is it the job of Montana state officials – legislators or statewide, elected or bureaucratic – to protect its citizens that are following state law, or is it their job to conspire with federal officials to circumvent state law that comes directly from the people if the will of the people is not to their taste?
The citizens of Montana deserve and need to know if those who have been raided or indicted were on the up-and-up in terms of state law. Or not. Shock us with their wrongdoing if you must. But make it clear, please, that Montanans operating within state law aren’t looking at decades in federal prison because some people don’t like the idea of legal access to medical marijuana.
There’s no question these people were breaking federal law, as is any patient with a medical marijuana card. But were they clean according to Montana’s rules? And if the rules were fuzzy, Montana’s job was to make them clear, provide information, and regulate. Destroying people’s lives, destroying their families, is not the solution to frustration or discontent over fuzzy laws.
But federal arrests may keep us from ever knowing the truth.
To legitimize their action to the people, federal prosecutors best demonstrate that those indicted were in violation of Montana state law. And, to legitimize their actions, the Montana Office of the Attorney General would be wise to talk to the people of Montana and tell us why they didn’t act if they knew state laws were being broken but instead called in, or were pushed aside by, the DEA.
There is a way it went down. What was it?
But in regards to the state’s appeal of the injunction, all it does is speed up the game. Medical cannabis opponents need the law passed by the legislature, SB 423, in its entirety to assure medical cannabis access in Montana is all but impossible. They don’t want the production and delivery system to stabilize, even within the parameters of the law as enjoined. They’re afraid it might function and they don’t want it to function.
They don’t want the citizens to know. The system can be made to work.
Go here for places to sign the petition to suspend SB 423 and place it on the ballot.
here to donate to Patients for Reform, Not Repeal, the referendum committee sponsoring the petition.
We wait for Judge Reynolds’ ruling on the new medical marijuana law passed by the legislature that destroys access to cannabis in Montana. The new law’s effective date is midnight tonight, June 30. The ruling will determine whether an injunction will be granted and the law be kept from going into effect until the courts can examine the constitutionality of the new law more thoroughly.
So, what’s it going to be? Hacked up gardens, hidden mothers, and shock? Some mix of enjoined provisions and permitted provisions that will need to be sorted out in short order so to be compliant by midnight? Or, will it be a full injunction and celebration tempered by calculation – what to do next? Will an injunction mean federal guns, Montana’s constitution be damned?
The petition language for the referendum to stop the new law and place it on the 2012 ballot was approved on Tuesday. The next step is training for signature gatherers. The petition should be on the streets probably within a week. At the national level, petitions have been circulating this week directed at U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Holder has said the Obama administration will be clarifying federal policy on states with medical marijuana laws. The petitions encourage policy that has the feds back off and leave states to sort out this issue without their guns and the confusion they cause when they arrest citizens obeying their state laws.
The wager is that Holder’s announcement will come late Friday afternoon. Late Friday afternoon is when the White House makes announcements that they don’t want to get a lot of play during the news cycle. But whether that means good news or bad news for states with medical cannabis laws, don’t know.
But Montana has their own state announcement they’re awaiting.
It was no surprise to see indictments come down this week from the March raids, timed to the judge’s deliberations, just as the raids were timed to occur simultaneously with a vote in Senate Judiciary to table medical marijuana repeal. The efforts of the feds to pressure decision-making by our legislature and judiciary is off-the-charts shocking. They don’t even feel the need to be subtle. They are the source of the fear, scandal, and violence when it comes to medical marijuana in this state, not Montanans, whether one thinks all of them should have a card or not.
But we’ll get our ruling today.
What if the worst possibility came to pass (I don’t think it will) and the judge allowed the new law to go into effect?
What it would mean is a rough couple months, panicked patients, and a lot of people getting real quiet or out of town,
until we collect the signatures, put a stop to the law, and stare down the ignorant once more.
In the case, MTCIA vs. the State of Montana, Judge Reynolds could choose to let some provisions of the law go into effect but not others. MTCIA attorney, Jim Goetz, has told the judge that we prefer an injunction against the entire law. The reason is that even though some minor provisions in the law may be constitutional, it’s not worth breaking out the magnifying glass and tweezers to find them when everything substantial in the new law doesn’t pass constitutional muster.
The state, on the other hand, has ceded a few provisions. But this isn’t about horse-trading. This is about what’s constitutional and what’s not. What does our right to privacy and dignity mean? Does what’s real and true matter, or are we supposed to negotiate away reality with ignoramuses and bigots?
Technically, it’s not pot that’s on trial. The new law is what’s on trial and the question is whether or not what it does impinges on Montanans’ constitutional rights. Forcing people to go through unnecessary contortions in order to exercise their rights is not constitutional. During the court proceedings, over and over the state kept bringing up the problem of marijuana’s status at the federal level as a Schedule 1 drug. Schedule 1 drugs are more dangerous and addictive than Schedule 2 drugs like meth and oxycotin. This is how the feds see it, in which case the less dangerous meth would be the gateway drug to the more deadly marijuana. See, they schedule marijuana as more dangerous than meth, but then also try to pass off marijuana as a gateway drug. Can’t have it both ways.
As a Schedule 1 drug, marijuana, also by definition, has no medical applications. Yes, there’s research and experience that says something else. It says that the cannabinoids in marijuana can be utilized by the human cannabinoid system with success for the purpose of relieving suffering and offering healing. Yet, the false categorization is allowed to trump reality.
So, a lie was told back in the thirties and the forties, and more lies under Nixon in 1970. The state’s argument seems to be that because someone told a lie a long time ago, we have to live as if the lie is true.
But we don’t have to keep living a lie someone else told. It’s not even our lie to upkeep, as a culture or generation. We can make different choices. We have to start getting rid of some of the lies in order to get the collective wagon out of the mud. Every generation has to get rid of a few, whether the lie is that illness is caused by evil spirits or that black people are inferior to white people. We move forward in time and say no to the stupid lies of the past that served some people at the expense of others. You want to be an American? – that’s the name of the game. You don’t like it, go find a totalitarian regime where you’d be more comfortable.
But there are people out there still who can leverage the cannabis lie for money and power. They know it’s a lie, too. But they haven’t decided yet how the truth’s going to affect their bottomline, whether in terms of money or power. Pot is a pawn in bigger battles.
Money, medicine, work, and wages – that’s a lot to strip from people
especially when none of them owes anything to somebody else’s lies.