05 March 2011


In 2004 Montana voters, through a referendum, approved the legalization of medical marijuana, for sale and possession in limited quantities by people certified to have a qualifying medical condition, as examined and approved by a physician. It was one of the sanest and most humane health care developments to occur in this state in many years.

Now there is a movement afoot to repeal the medical marijuana law in Montana. The Republican-controlled state House voted 63-to-37 for repeal, largely along party lines, and the bill now goes to the state Senate for consideration. The House bill's sponsor cited his perception that medical marijuana encouraged recreational use. He also mentioned fears that medical marijuana might be a path to full legalizaton (horrors!), and fears of drug gang wars (which have not materialized in seven years).

This is a reactionary and retrogressive measure by any standard. If the Senate doesn't have the intelligence or the cojones to vote it down, that leaves only a veto by the governor standing in the way of repeal. Should repeal materialized, thousands of legitimate medical marijuana users will be deprived of a safe, organic, regulated substance for treating their ailments. I am one of those users -- chronic pain from a herniated disk, from arthritis, and from tendonitis have a cumulative, negative effect on one's ability to think clearly and function normally. Over-the-counter pain relievers don't even touch my pain, and although I'm eligible to request opioids, I refuse to take a substance which carries such a high risk of addiction. Medical marijuana has proven to be an ideal alternative, for me and for many others with conditions ranging from glaucoma to cancer to diabetes.

The red herrings concerning recreational abuse are just that -- nonsense. Recreational marijuana has been with us for at least a century. One doesn't need to go through the bureaucratic red tape required for a state medical marijuana card, in order to get high. Further, legitimate medical marijuana users don't have to smoke the herb. They can obtain the pain relief benefits of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, in liquid tincture form, thus avoiding any harmful side-effects from ingesting smoke into one's lungs.

I encourage all readers, if you are residents of Montana, to contact your state legislators here. And remember, prohibition of any substance has NEVER WORKED. Far better to make a substance legal, license those who may sell it, tax the substance for revenue, and control who uses it through any appropriate screening process -- as is already done with alcohol, and as is being done in a number of states with medical marijuana.

The map below (click to enlarge) shows U.S. states with medical marijuana laws (light green), states with decriminalization laws (olive green), and states with both (dark green).

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