Pubdate: Wed, 24 Oct 2012
Source: Billings Outpost, The (MT)
Copyright: 2012 The Billings Outpost
Author: Roger Clawson


Seasoned politicians will affirm that no one lacking a cast iron
stomach should witness the making of sausage or law. Either can be

It is bad enough if these products are created in a butcher shop or
legislative chambers. But law (or sausage) made in the street will
twist the entrails of the most durable citizen.

I have tasted a bit of each of these practices. In addition: I have
been bitten on the great toe by an ant as big as a young mouse, sat
through every syllable of a 90-minute speech at a Head Start
graduation and lived on yellow vegetables for 18 days.

I pray the Deity doesn't let me live long enough to repeat any of
these adventures, but if He does, let it not be the act of freelance
legislation. My stomach could not stand the strain, and both kidneys
and spleen would likely explode.

Voting for a human being is such an easy exercise. Read the name. Mark
an "X." Go on to the next.

Voting for an initiative is like studying for the bar.

Montanans will find five voter initiatives on the ballot this year. A
48-page publication will tell you more than you want to know about
these chunks of legislation. After reading the pamphlet from cover to
cover, I felt as if I had just eaten two quarts of sugar or 18 raw
eggs. Suffice it to say, I had enough.

I slogged through descriptions of Legislative Referendum 120
(requiring parental notification prior to an abortion for a minor) and
Legislative Referendum 121 (Denying food stamps, drivers license,
primary and secondary education and other state services to illegal
aliens). The Montana secretary of state burned 3,200 words on this
pair. I studied the descriptions and arguments pro and con until my
eyes crossed. I would recommend that you go with your gut on 120 and
121. Just a hint: Both are conservative.

The defeat of Initiative Referendum 124 would return Montana law on
medical marijuana to 2004, when Montana voters approved IR 148,
legalizing marijuana for certain patients with debilitating medical

It was a faddish notion, a daring proposition. Medical marijuana
proponents were seen by many as a gang of pot-smoking hippies. Be that
so or not, they certainly were not a delegation from the American
Medical Association or a council of Missouri Synod Lutherans.

They were young, energetic, mostly college students encouraged by
national organizations pursuing the same goal. Medical marijuana
promoters took to the streets, shopping malls and college campuses to
gather the signatures needed to put Initiative Referendum 148 on the

Sausage became law. Medical marijuana (whatever that was) became legal
in Montana. However, federal codes still outlawed Marijuana -
medicinal, over the counter or in any other form.

In brief, marijuana could be used for medical purposes anywhere in
Montana that was not part of the United States. Then, an unexpected
event made legal pot a hot commodity once more. A new president
announced that the feds would no longer prosecute (or persecute)
anyone smoking marijuana, selling the stuff or speculating in
marijuana futures.

The announcement triggered a bull market in medical marijuana. Pot
emporiums opened on main streets and back streets, selling their ware
to anyone with a state-issued marijuana card. The number of Montanans
certified as "patients" peaked at 31,000 plus. Marijuana caravans
toured the state.

Some carried out-of-state doctors aboard to sign cards for new
patients. Pot opponents suspected that many of these new card holders
were suffering from a condition that might be called "Jonesing for

All this venture capitalism enraged a Republican Legislature. HB 161
repealed the referendum. Gov. Brian Schweitzer vetoed HB 161 with a
red hot branding iron. The medical marijuana consumers across the
state cheered. Vendors rejoiced.

The celebration came to a crashing end when Senate Majority Leader
Jeff Essmann dove in and drafted a hard line adjustment to the new
marijuana initiative -- Senate Bill 423, a bill that will remain in
place if IR-124 passes. Essmann's measure limited sale of marijuana,
limited the number of customers a vendor might have and forced
marijuana sellers to give the stuff away.

That last condition was a jab at vendors who pretended they were
serving the suffering masses. As if to say, "If you aspire to
martyrdom, help yourself."
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