Pubdate: Fri, 15 Jul 2011
Source: Helena Independent Record (MT)
Copyright: 2011 Helena Independent Record
Author: Charles S. Johnson
Referenced: Barb Trebo's letter and initiative proposal:
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


An East Helena medical marijuana patient who had worked in law 
enforcement wants to amend the state constitution by initiative in 
2012 to decriminalize all cannabis here and treat it like alcohol.

"Let us end the pointless battles," Barb Trego wrote state officials 
in submitting her idea. "Let us stop treating medical marijuana and 
nonmedical marijuana differently. Let us stop treating alcohol and 
marijuana differently.

"We are far better off as a state, and as a society, if the people 
who wish to participate in the purchase, production or consumption of 
either product are subject or regulations and taxation, not prohibition."

Trego said Thursday she uses medical marijuana to reduce swelling 
from a degenerative disc in her back.

Based on her experience as a deputy sheriff's reservist in Lewis and 
Clark County, Trego said there is "no call for us here in Montana to 
spend our law enforcement resources investigating, arresting or 
punishing adults who merely produce or use a small amount of marijuana."

Trego, 56, filed the paperwork for a constitutional initiative with 
Secretary of State Linda McCulloch's office this week. That triggers 
a review by several agencies before the petition language is approved 
and she can start collecting signatures.

Her measure differs from the proposed referendum already cleared by 
state agencies that, if enough Montanans sign petitions, would let 
voters decide whether to retain or reject the more restrictive 2011 
state medical marijuana law. A Helena district judge has temporarily 
blocked parts of the new law from taking effect.

Trego initially told the State Bureau Thursday she was part of a 
group putting forward the initiative, but declined to identify it. 
She called back later to say she was she's offering the measure on 
her own, not on behalf of any group.

"I have watched the back-and-forth over our state's medical marijuana 
law with sadness and frustration," she said in the letter. 
"Fundamentally, marijuana is a safe and effective plant-based 
medicine. But it is treated in the political debate here in Montana 
as some kind of heretical force, or as a dangerous narcotic, or both. 
It is neither."

Her proposal would amend the state constitutional provision that says 
a person 18 years of age or older is an adult for all purposes, 
although the Legislature or the people by initiative may set the 
legal age for purchasing, consuming or possessing alcoholic beverages.

Trego would add this language: "Adults have the right to responsibly 
purchase, consume, produce and possess alcoholic beverages and 
marijuana, subject to reasonable limitations, regulations and 
taxation. Except for actions that endanger minors, children or public 
safety, no criminal offense or penalty of this state shall apply to 
such activities."

Montana has higher law enforcement priorities than "to target 
individuals who produce or possess marijuana for personal use," her 
findings say.

Trego's findings have a caveat that says voters recognize the federal 
government maintains "a strict prohibition" on marijuana, just as it 
once had a prohibition on alcohol. As a result, the amendment "may be 
limited in its applicability until such time as the national 
prohibition (on marijuana) or its enforcement, is relaxed or 
repealed," they say.

Senate Majority Leader Jeff Essmann, R-Billings, who sponsored the 
more restrictive 2011 medical pot law, said a ballot measure to 
decriminalize marijuana was proposed in California last year.

"Even in that very liberal state, the people rejected legalization," 
he said. It lost by a margin of 53.5 percent to 46.5 percent.

Essmann said Trego is at least taking "an honest, forthright method 
to accomplish what she wishes," unlike those who advocated for the 
2004 voter-passed ballot measure to legalize marijuana for some 
medical purposes.

"Unfortunately, I think the people that advanced the medical 
marijuana initiative in 2004 may have misrepresented what their 
ultimate goal was, which has created the mess the Legislature is 
trying to deal with," Essmann said.

To qualify Trego's measure for the ballot, supporters will need to 
obtain the signatures of 10 percent of the voters in 40 of the 100 
state House districts and 10 percent of the total voters statewide, 
or 48,674 people.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom