Pubdate: Mon, 18 Feb 2013
Source: Missoulian (MT)
Copyright: 2013 Missoulian
Author: Charles S. Johnson


HELENA - So far, the 2013 Montana Legislature appears to be no more 
receptive to medical marijuana than the 2011 session was.

The House Human Services Committee on Friday tabled  and almost 
certainly killed  four medical marijuana bills by Rep. Kelly 
McCarthy, D-Billings. The bills all died on 12-4 votes, with 10 
Republicans and two Democrats opposing the bills, while four 
Democrats backed them.

McCarthy's bills were intended to fix the 2011 medical marijuana law, 
Senate Bill 423, which has been challenged in court. He tried to 
remove those provisions in the law that District Judge James Reynolds 
of Helena has twice blocked with preliminary injunctions, most 
recently in January.

"We were hoping to make SB423, as enjoined, permanent so the legal 
gymnastics could stop and all parties could get on with their lives," 
McCarthy said afterward.

By his own description, McCarthy is one of the least likely lawmakers 
to sponsor these bills. Now a banker, he served in U.S. military 
intelligence for 23 years and participated in some interdictions to 
intercept illegal drugs being smuggled.

Members of the Montana Cannabis Information Association met with 
McCarthy during his campaign and explained the challenges they face.

"I made a commitment to help them if and when I got elected," McCarthy said.

McCarthy wasn't surprised his bills went down.

"I understand that I've burned a bit of political capital on this 
one, but everyone deserves representation," he said. "When I didn't 
see too many other legislators wanting to take up the challenge, I 
leaned into the strike zone and took one for the team. I didn't think 
we'd win, but I didn't let that stop me from giving it my best shot."

His bills ran headlong into the stiff opposition of another former 
drug-fighting federal employee, House Human Services Chairman David 
Howard, R-Park City.

Howard, a retired FBI agent and chief of law enforcement for the 
Bureau of Land Management, told the committee how he spearheaded an 
effort in the 1980s to chop down thousands of illegal pot plants. It 
took place near the King Range National Conservation Area in northern 
California, near Garberville, which the BBC has dubbed America's 
"marijuana heartland."

Howard denounced marijuana as "a poison" and "a joke" on Friday after 
blasting it as "a scourge" two years ago.

If any medical marijuana bill passes the 2013 Legislature, it likely 
will have to clear Howard's committee. That isn't likely.

Over in the Senate, Sen. Dave Wanzenried, D-Missoula, has a pair of 
medical marijuana bills that will be heard this week in the Senate 
Judiciary Committee.

One would prevent the state Board of Pharmacy from delaying the 
rescheduling of marijuana if Congress or a federal agency changes how 
it's scheduled under the Controlled Substances Act.

His other bill would add post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, to 
the list of medical conditions for which a physician could recommend 
medical marijuana to patients.

Wanzenried, in his final session of a long legislative career, 
doesn't think lawmakers should shy away from controversial issues.

"There's an old saying that doing the popular thing isn't always the 
right thing," he said. "The popular thing about medical marijuana 
this session is to not do anything and let the courts decide. I think 
we have a responsibility to reexamine any policy on a routine basis. 
Having a good discussion on medical marijuana is a good idea."

He has another pending bill he intends to introduce this week that 
will incorporate provisions of McCarthy's four measures.

"Responsible democracy for me is speaking out about it and having a 
vigorous debate about things that some people would just as soon not 
talk about," he said.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom