There is probably no better argument against the ballot initiative process than the 2004 law approved by Montana voters that legalized medical marijuana.
The good intentions of the people of Montana to “allow the production, possession and use of marijuana by patients with debilitating medical conditions” turned out to give free rein to an unregulated, multi-million dollar industry that basically oversaw the de facto legalization of marijuana.
Eventually, it became clear to almost everyone that it wasn’t “patients with debilitating medical conditions” who were the main beneficiaries of the medical marijuana law; it was marijuana users. They could claim to have any number of untraceable ailments and wind up with their handy-dandy medical marijuana card that was supposed to be a get out of jail free card.
Two probems: 1) That wasn’t what the voters intended, and 2) The federal government wasn’t playing along. Marijuana was still a Schedule 1 drug on the list of controlled substances, and the federal law took precedent over state law, leaving users in limbo.
By the time the 2011 Legislature met, it was well past obvious that something needed to change. A law was cobbled together to represent a diverse group of needs — including those of law enforcement, patients, and municipalities. Senate Bill 423 repealed the 2004 initiative that wasn’t working and replaced it with an entirely new program. Afterwards, citizens who supported medical marijuana put Initiative Referendum 124 on the ballot to repeal SB 423.
It’s complicated, as it seems all ballot initiatives are, but the bottom line is that voters need to decide if they liked the way the medical marijuana program was working under the 2004 law.
In our experience, the old law did not work and the patients who needed medical marijuana were probably not the ones most likely to be getting it. Therefore, we support Senate Bill 423 as an imperfect solution that will make a good starting point to try to bring sanity back to the state’s drug regulations.
We urge you to vote FOR Senate Bill 423 and enact a new, more tightly regulated medical marijuana program. The old system just didn’t work, and we should never go back to that again.