For those of you who have not yet heard, I regret to inform you that Lori Burnam passed away on Jan. 10th. Less than one month after she made the physically demanding trip from Hamilton to Helena in order to testify against the state in an ongoing lawsuit from the Montana Cannabis Industry Association (MTCIA.) Not only did the absurdly constrictive law take away safe access to the medicine she needed, our court system has been playing “hot potato” with the case for the past year and a half. Similar to a number of other precedent-setting cases which have been strangely held up in court for years.
Into this mess, we bring two recently elected Presidents: Barack Obama and Jeff Essman. The latter, of course, being the new state President of the Senate; who also happened to be the architect behind SB423, the blatantly unconstitutional and unworkable bill our last legislature decided to try calling a law… Now add incoming Governor, Steve Bullock; who told voters he was going to vote against SB423, in perhaps the most shrewd gesture of them all during this past season’s cut-throat election cycle. While his former post, the Attorney General’s office, keeps fighting in court to fully implement the doomed law.
According to a recent press release from drug czar Gil Kerlikowske, coming out of the election it is clear the nation is “in the midst of a serious national conversation on marijuana”. He then said more details would be forthcoming and referred to President Obama’s interview with Barbara Walters as the starting point for this conversation. An interview clip which, NORML and many others have already pointed out, ends with the president saying there’s more we can do on the health end of the spectrum.
He gives every indication that there’s no justifiable reason for putting someone in prison over marijuana use. Yet, the prison industrial system keeps on chuggin’ away. Up next here in Montana, former owner of Big Sky Health Jason Washington stands trial on Monday morning. There is expected to be a large group of people with signs gathered to show support for Jason and raise awareness of the right of Jury Nullification. Out of hundreds of raids across the country in the past couple of years, Mr. Washington is only the fifth to actually take their case before a jury. Chris Williams being another one of those five, giving Montana forty percent of the nation’s total.
While Jury Nullification is a remarkably powerful tool for combating abuse of authority and winning the drug war, our state and federal judges are dead-set against pointing it out to jurors at trial. As I discovered when attempting to fight my own charge against a personal grow last year, it’s a serious offense to even utter the words “jury nullification” in a court of law these days.
Except in New Hampshire, where they recently passed a law requiring judges to mention the right to jurors. Below is a quote from an article discussing the new law, which happens to mention the case of “jury mutiny” here in Missoula way back in 2010:
..On June 18, New Hampshire Governor John Lynch signed HB 146, which reads:
“[A] Right of Accused. In all criminal proceedings the court shall permit the defense to inform the jury of its right to judge the facts and the application of the law in relation to the facts in controversy.”
I have the feeling this New Hampshire law will end up having a tremendous effect on the American judicial system as a whole. If enough people start nullifying drug laws in New Hampshire, eventually New Hampshire prosecutors will be forced to stop prosecuting drug offenses in that state entirely. In 2010, a Montana case never even made it to trial because prosecutors could not find enough people who would be willing to convict a person based on drug charges…
Obviously, things have changed a lot in Montana since then; but, there can be no doubt whatsoever that nationally the momentum has shifted to embrace reform. There is only one small group of people, including former ONDCP staffer Kevin Sabet, who are talking to the press and public about alternatives to legalization. Even they now appear to be embracing the “harm reduction” philosophy for cannabis use, although they still cling to made-up statistics like ‘one in every five or six users becomes an addict’. Then go on to explain how pharmaceutical companies are working hard to extract the useful parts out of this ‘dangerous’ plant so we can use them safely (in pill form.)
Nevermind that Marinol (synthetic, pill-form THC) has been shown by no less than the FDA to be lethal in rare cases. Those kind of statistics aren’t gaining any traction for the pharmaceutical stock in your retirement portfolio, so what’s the point in focusing on death all the time? Just think of all the jobs our laws against marijuana create: prison guards, undercover agents, informants, smugglers, dealers, growers, lawyers, cops, judges, medical examiners, morticians, government bureaucrats and ‘educators’ like Kevin Sabet (who actually holds a Ph.D., in social policy.)
Speaking of which, kudos to the University of Montana; for blatantly exposing a process that’s so corrupt your only excuse is that everybody else is doing it: Environmental Group Questions UMs Objectivity in Coal Studies.
Hopefully, this irony will not be lost on our state lawmakers; as some of them reminisce about getting to become famous movie stars in the documentary shot during the last session, “Code of the West”. Which is scheduled to be released with an update soon, to include more of the carnage and blatant injustices done to Montanans brave enough to provide safe, life-giving medicine in the form of a sustainable industry that had been growing our economy responsibly with great speed. If you haven’t done so already, you can visit their online shop and purchase a t-shirt with the classic line printed on the back: NOT EVERY OUTLAW IS A CRIMINAL
This ought to be an entertaining legislative session, with even the White House now admitting we need to have a serious conversation about marijuana. As we find a way off the fiscal cliff, that can only truly come in the form of sustainable industries (particularly hemp, which actually can ween us off petroleum and fracking in the not-so-distant future.) Once those funding resource extraction and making excuses for our own habitat destruction realize their point of diminishing returns is close at hand, maybe they will have more interest in real science and worthwhile data analysis?
Montana NORML is very pleased to be working with our many local allies and national affiliations toward bringing about positive legislative change in marijuana law this year. We need your help more than ever, to make sure this vital process of transition is successful and expedient in order to minimize the dangers presented to medical cannabis patients like Lori from our currently unworkable law.
There will be a tool on our website available soon to help you contact your representatives with ease. Please stay tuned here on our blog and sign up for our newsletter to come directly into your mailbox if you haven’t done so already. Thanks to all of your support, victory is smelling close (and sweet!)
BILLINGS REPUBLICAN ASSUMES PIVOTAL LEADERSHIP ROLE
“I think it’s important that we make it clear that we stand for something, and that we’re not just ‘Democrat lite,’ ” says Sen. Dave Lewis, R-Helena, who nominated Essmann for the job…
..“I haven’t seen what (Essmann) wants to do,” says Tutvedt. “We don’t have any idea what his agenda is. Right now there is a void, and hopefully it will be filled by Republicans and not the governor…”
..Essmann says one goal he’ll be emphasizing is a conservative state budget that doesn’t overly rely on federal money, which is 40 percent of the current state budget.
“We are far more dependent on federal money than the typical state,” he says. “That will make us vulnerable going forward when the people in Washington get down to the business of getting our financial house in order, and I hope they do…”