Montana House Speaker Wants To Repeal Medical Marijuana Law

Mike Milburn (R-Cascade) preens as he prepares to accept his nomination as Speaker of the House in the Montana Legislature, November 2010. One of Milburn's first acts as Speaker was to call for the repeal of Montana's medical marijuana law.

Montana’s new Speaker of the House, Republican Mike Milburn, wants to repeal the state’s medical marijuana law.

“It’s pretty much opening the door to legalizing marijuana is what this has done,” Milburn told NBC Montana, reports Stephanie Barish. “So, we have many issues on that on driving while using it, working and going to school.”

Milburn, who claimed the medical marijuana law is allowing cannabis to become too available, is sponsoring a bill what would repeal it, despite the fact that an overwhelming 62 percent of Montanans voted for the law in 2004.

“Voters did vote for the initiative but it wasn’t for what happened… and that’s where I’m going to listen to what they’re saying and what they’re telling me is that the consequences of what’s happening is way outweighing any benefits,” Milburn said in a somewhat grammatically challenged fashion.

But state Rep. Diane Sands, a Democrat, sees the medical marijuana law differently.

“The fact of the matter is the majority of the people want it fixed; they don’t want it repealed,” she said.

Sands said the law has helped people and should be adjusted to eliminate gray areas.

“A system for the issuing of licenses and a regulatory process for all the growers, the producers and the sellers,” Sands said. “That has to happen.”

The manager of Zoo Mountain, a dispensary that sells medical marijuana, agrees.

“I feel that any repeal bill shows a lack of education and compassion,” said Logan Head. “We need to educate those legislators or the people backing those bills and show them the true science and facts that lie behind medical cannabis.”

Head said the law should stand, but some changes should be made in order to reduce abuse.

“I think the more we can work with the bill, and make sure this bill suits the best interest of patients, that would be the ultimate goal,” he said.

Nice agenda, there, Mr. Speaker of the House: Remove safe access for sick and dying patients whose pain and nausea are relieved by medical marijuana!

While it’s an entirely typical Republican talking point, it’s sad that Milburn is willing to trade the misery of seriously ill people for what he perceives as cheap political gain.

And he’s even mistaken about that. The majority of Montanans still support medical marijuana.

A May 2010 newspaper poll asked readers: “If medical marijuana were put back to the public vote now, would you vote for it given the lack of regulatory framework?”

Even with the somewhat, shall we say, leading and negatively phrased question, a healthy majority of the 247 readers responding to the unscientific poll — 138, or 56 percent — said “Yes,” they would still vote for medical pot.

“The time and energy spent on this debate is beyond all comprehension and reason,” one reader commented. “Don’t we have enough to worry about — like the war, the economy and the oil spill, to name a few?”

“Let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater,” another reader wrote. “The problems can, and should, be remedied without denying marijuana to legitimate medical users.”

“If medical marijuana provides relief for even one patient who is suffering the pain of cancer of the nausea associated with chemotherapy,” wrote another reader, “then it is worth my vote.”

Observers of Montana’s political scene are predicting a heated battle.

About the author: Steve Elliott, a working journalist since 1982, is editor of Toke of the Town, Village Voice Media’s site of cannabis news, views, rumor, and humor. He is a legal medical marijuana patient in the state of Washington.

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