January 2014 Newsletter

January 8th, 2014 by Editor No comments »

Happy 2014!   

Unless you live in a cave, you likely know that marijuana prohibition has come to an end in Colorado, just a few hundred miles away from our southern border.  The mainstream media has been in a feeding frenzy since 2012, but the first few days of 2014 have seen news coverage explode beyond anyone’s expectations.  Reports indicate than an eighth of marijuana costs $70, and many stores will be forced to close temporarily because of they are running out of stock. On the first day alone, less than thirty shop owners collectively reported over $1 million in revenue.

After 80 years of failed prohibition policy, it is hard to understate the importance of this moment in history; yet, it is merely a taste of what the near future has in store. Legislators around the country are now seriously considering changes to their own laws, and voter initiatives are springing up seemingly everywhere.

Here at Montana NORML, we are very pleased to thank so many of our supporters for stepping up to volunteer their time, effort and financial support on behalf of our goal of creating a legal, regulated market for all adults in our great state.  Our website and new database are nearly complete, and we can soon officially launch our own voter initiative campaign to end marijuana prohibition in Montana in 2016. Thanks to your help so far, we are well on our way.

The lawsuit spearheaded by the Montana Cannabis Information Association (MTCIA) is vital to preserving safe access for thousands of residents who rely on cannabis for the treatment of serious medical conditions.  The parties will be back in court in May, and the MTCIA needs your financial help to keep the state from destroying what’s left of our medical providers.  Please visit their website for more information on how you can help.

We hope you’ll join us this year as we engage with the public and our elected officials, and prepare to end marijuana prohibition in Big Sky Country.

~ Justin Michels

Here is a brief rundown of recent news:



Marijuana:  Resurgence underway  — Missoula Independent

Hearing on ex-medical pot provider’s bid to end sentence in Missoula this week



Colorado Marijuana Sales Surpass $1 Million On First Day: Shop Owners

Ben & Jerry’s Nails Marijuana Marketing In One Delicious Tweet

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to Hear Whether Citizens Have a Fundamental Right Under the US Constitution to Use Cannabis for Medical Purposes



Ending Marijuana Prohibition in Montana

December 4th, 2013 by Editor No comments »

The war on marijuana is now entering its final stages, and Montana NORML is gearing up to play its part. We are actively planning a voter initiative campaign for the 2016 presidential election that would tax and regulate marijuana for adults similar to Colorado’s program. We now have a financial commitment of over $500,000 toward that effort from a leading marijuana advocacy group interested in funding that campaign!

But it takes more than money, and there is much work to do. Real change can only happen if it is based on the time, energy and commitment of our supporters. In coming weeks, we will be asking for your help in forming and running several key groups to support our state-wide, multi-year campaign to put marijuana prohibition in the ground permanently. One of our first steps is to form a communications committee to enable us to open up lines of communication with the thousands of Montanans who support an end to marijuana prohibition. If you are a writer, enjoy surfing the web, or have that gift of gab we want to put that talent to good use. Watch for that announcement very soon.

If you are in the Missoula area, please join us for the next Missoula Chapter meeting to discuss our plan, ask questions and share ideas:

What: Missoula Chapter Meeting
When: Tuesday, December 17 at 7:00 p.m.
Where: Missoula Public Library

And if you are in another part of the state, stay tuned for ways to help us establish a chapter in your area!


Justin Michels

Missoula Chapter Director

“Code of the West” debuts on public television

October 4th, 2013 by Justin Michels 2 comments »

Groundbreaking documentary exposes both the ridiculous fight over medical rights and inability of our representatives to accomplish anything worthwhile

October 8th, at 6pm on Montana PBS, the internationally acclaimed film “Code of the West” will be featured as one of 26 independent films in the World Channel’s new series “America Reframed“.


Award-winning director and Harvard Law Professor, Rebecca Richman Cohen, has already been screening the film and talking with audiences all over the country about what happened after Montana entrepreneurs trusted what our federal government said in a memo from 2009 stating people in compliance with state cannabis laws are not worth trying to prosecute.

The infamous raids of 2011 and brutal treatment of law-abiding Montana citizens, including the late Richard Flor (who died as a result of neglect in federal prison), will undoubtedly have a sobering effect on the slowly evolving national “conversation” about marijuana.

If we’re lucky, it may even help to re-frame the larger question about how we get our representatives to stop behaving like spoiled children and do their jobs.

Code of the West – Trailer from Racing Horse Productions on Vimeo.


Brief Update on All Things Cannabis In Montana: Jason Washington in the news today, ADW2 in Billings tomorrow and medical clinics going on across the state

August 7th, 2013 by Justin Michels No comments »

First off, I’d like to offer an apology for not being at the recent movie and concert here in Missoula as discussed in the previous post.  Ironically enough, I was sitting in a jail cell for using my doctor-recommended medication.  Yet, my sad tale is nothing compared to what far too many others are living with as a result of politicians playing God.  What I have realized, however, is that Montana is still helping lead the national discussion of cannabis law reform and we are not doomed to the tragic fate which some of our lawmakers ignorantly think we deserve.

Plus, I am quite pleased to pass on some great news from our friends at the MTCIA and Cash Hyde Foundation:



AMERICAN DRUG WAR 2 – Cannabis Destiny, a documentary by filmmaker Kevin Booth, closely examines the current state of the government’s war on marijuana in the United States. This powerful film features the story of Mike and Kalli Hyde and their struggle to keep Montana’s youngest medical marijuana patient, Cash Hyde, alive through the use of medical marijuana.  

 Cannabis Destiny Flyer billings

Cash Hyde’s battle with brain cancer captured national attention and was featured in several news stories, including ABC and FOX News.  After being told Cash had little hope of surviving, his parents turned to medical marijuana, and his cancer went into remission – called a miracle by the medical community providing him care.  That is, until Montana state law changed and licensed caregivers could no longer provide the much-needed medicine to Cash and his cancer returned.

 The film will be shown in Billings at the NOVA Center for The Performing Arts, 2317 Montana Ave. - Thursday August 8, 7pm.  Ticket prices are $7.00.  The movie is presented by the Montana Cannabis Information Association (MTCIA), and proceeds from the movie will benefit both the MTCIA and the Cash Hyde Foundation. Tickets are on sale at Heightened Harvest 1415 S 32nd. St. West, in Billings, 656-115, and at the venue before the show.

A raffle, courtesy of Headies Smoke Shop of Billings, will be held the night of the event. Must be present to win. Proceeds will benefit the MTCIA


Next, for those of you who are not yet aware:  we do have a few medical rights still in tact, along with a number of providers here in Montana.  There is also a referral service available, free to patients, which serves to connect patients with providers in their area.  Their name is Big Sky Provider Referral and below is a list of upcoming clinics which they are helping to host across the state.  Go to their Facebook page and/or website for more information:

Big Sky Provider Referral is a discreet, professional, provider referral service, bringing Montana cardholders and providers together.https://www.facebook.com/BigSkyProviderReferral

Friday Aug 16 in Bozeman – For an AM appointment call Lenny 599-8385
Friday Aug. 16 in Bozeman – For an afternoon appointment call Chris 587-3345
Friday & Sat. Aug 23 & 24 in Kalispell – For an appointment call Tara 249-1304
Friday Aug. 30 in Billings – For an appointment call Elizabeth 690-7422
Great Falls Date TBA

Call us at (406) 672-3172 Or email bigskyproviderreferral@gmail.com


Finally, I’ll leave you with a link to the article in today’s Missoulian where provider Jason Washington is interviewed from the private prison he’s now living at in Shelby.  Washington, like Chris Williams, was one of only a handful of medical providers across the country who were brave enough to take their cases before a jury.  Of course, the article makes no mention of how these law-abiding citizens were prevented from discussing their adherence to state law in the federal courtroom.  They also fail to mention how the jurors in every case are prevented from hearing about their right to choose “Jury Nullification” over a guilty verdict if they believe the law to be unworthy of enforcement.

Yet, it is worth noting this is front page news that even Lee Enterprises (parent company of the Missoulian and most other newspapers across the state) are counting on to sell their product and find relevance in today’s quickly evolving world.

State Legislators, Please Take Note: Feds Declare “Serious” Talk About Marijuana Law Reform

January 13th, 2013 by Justin Michels No comments »

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!)

Essmann a ‘sharper edge’ in Senate president 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…”

Feds now seem to be favoring recreational use over medical; will state lawmakers and citizens act accordingly?

December 16th, 2012 by Justin Michels 2 comments »

After an impressively long silence on marijuana policy, President Obama finally explained that the federal government has better things to do than contradict the will of voters in a couple of western states.  If we are to take him at his word, this means the federal government will not be raiding businesses and people’s houses all over Washington and Colorado.  Yet, the citizens of Montana still have no safe access and lawful providers like Chris Williams are still being prosecuted to the full extent of the law.  Meanwhile, in California:

Steve DeAngelo Of Harborside – President Obama Comments On Marijuana, President Appears On ABC News Tonight With Barbara Walters

“I hope the President will show the same regard for medical cannabis patients that he has extended to recreational users of cannabis, and stop the ongoing federal campaign to close state-legal medical cannabis providers.” – Steve DeAngelo, Executive Director of Harborside Health Center, in response to comments about state cannabis laws made by President Obama to ABC News, on air tonight with Barbara Walters…

..”In the past year, U.S. attorneys have forced the closure of over 600 medical cannabis dispensaries in California, and over 1000 nationwide.  Harborside Health Center, the most reputable and legally compliant dispensary in California, will be in court December 20, to defend ourselves against federal efforts to close our doors forever…”

Up here in Montana, we’ve also got numerous court cases unfolding around our currently unworkable marijuana policy.  Most notably, the injunction which is being held in place by a lawsuit from the Montana Cannabis Industry Association(MTCIA.)  That case was back in court last week, with the District Judge expected to give a final ruling in “days or weeks.”  Until then, the law remains partially in place like it has been all along.   The lawsuit has a good shot at winning, but is also in very real danger of going away if the remaining balance owed to the law firm isn’t paid soon.  If you are concerned about the future of medical cannabis in Montana, donating to the MTCIA’s legal fund is a great way to help improve safe access for those who need the herb most.

Of course, the law as it is currently being implemented is very far from perfect; but, nowhere nearly as bad as full implementation of SB423 would surely be.  Luckily, we also have an upcoming legislative session where a three-pronged approach to improving our current marijuana law is now under way.  However, the only way any of these efforts will be successful is if enough Montana citizens write a brief letter to their elected state representative.  A list of whom can be found here:

Members of 2013 Montana House of Representatives

There is no need to write anything long or overly formal, but showing your representative a good amount of respect increases the likelihood they will return the favor.  What I’m, personally, going to say begins with the president’s remarks about having more important things to do than worry about recreational users in states where it’s been legalized.  Right now, our government is spending way too much time and money dictating who can use this herb for what purpose.  Cannabis has now been shown to shrink cancerous tumors; meanwhile, people are dropping like flies from prescription drug and alcohol abuse.  Our prisons are so overburdened with housing non-violent drug ‘offenders’, that we no longer have the resources available to properly investigate murders or keep rapists behind bars for anywhere close to the mandatory minimums often attached to drug charges…

These are all points I plan on briefly addressing, but my strongest argument in favor of reforming the state’s marijuana law is far more personal.  If you happen to be reading this little blog post, then I’m guessing you have a personal stake in this battle for medical (and spiritual) freedom as well.  If you can connect to the lawmaker (or member of their staff) on a personal level, it’s far more persuasive than statistics or slogans.  So, briefly state your opinion and kindly ask them to consider becoming a co-sponsor of one of the three different bills now in the works.

In conclusion, I will be mentioning that Montana NORML is presently working with producers of the film “The House I Live In”; in order to bring screenings and panel discussions of the film and drug policy reform to Montana early next year.  We are looking to set up diverse panel discussions, including people from all sides of these important debates.  Thanks to all of the recent media attention on this subject, and specifically to political prisoner Chris Williams along with everybody who’s supporting the update of Code of the West; now our state legislators have a rare opportunity to prove their competence by giving our state a workable marijuana law in 2013.  Or face the specter of more lawsuits and greater scrutiny of their already questionable actions.

If you are interested in helping to fix our state law then MT NORML needs your help to educate our lawmakers and fellow citizens.  Whether that means being in a panel, hosting a screening at your local library, or donating money for advertising and supplies is entirely up to you.  And if your representative happens to send you a reply, we’d be most interested to see what they say and repost it with your permission.

On Tuesday, Dec. 18th; Montana NORML is having a meeting at the Missoula Public Library at 7p.m.

Located in the large meeting room downstairs, the meeting is open to everyone and will center around the upcoming legislative session plus the movie screenings.  If you are unable to attend, please send us an e-mail at norml@montananorml.org telling us where and what you’re interested in doing.  If you’re not sure, that’s fine too.  Thanks to all of our dedicated supporters, cannabis law reform is far from dead here under the big sky.


Justin Michels
Montana NORML, Executive Director

Peace gets a chance in Washington, as Montana’s battle over medicine keeps going viral; and our failed drug war gets no more sympathy from the press

December 8th, 2012 by Justin Michels No comments »

History was made earlier this week, as Washington officially became the first state to legalize cannabis.  While the federal government remained almost silent, kindly mentioning that the laws in both Washington and Colorado are still under review.  Then issuing what appears to be an empty threat, stating that the herb will remain illegal despite their laws otherwise because of the infamous federal “supremacy.”  A notion that severely backfired, thanks in no small part to a Judge in Arizona who said the following:

“This court will not rule that Arizona, having sided with the ever-growing minority of states and having limited it to medical use, has violated public policy,” Judge Michael Gordon of Maricopa County Superior Court wrote.

While the federal government is obviously not subservient to the lower courts of any state, this judge’s humble decision is but one example of a quickly growing trend all over the country and planet.  The crazy notion that we ought to have medical freedom; or sovereignty over our bodies, is taking root everywhere you look.  Most notably among players and owners of the NFL, at the ACLU; and, of course, in the mainstream media.  A fascination those of us in Montana are no longer immune to.  Particularly here at Montana NORML, where we’ve been swamped all week with unprecedented educational opportunities.

For now, let’s focus on celebrating the other big news coming out of Montana and beyond.  Beginning with the Code of the West kickstarter campaign, which succeeded in getting the funds to update the already critically-acclaimed documentary.  The extended version is likely to be released during our state legislature’s upcoming session, starting in early January and ending late April.

Thanks to widespread interest in the film and tireless efforts of its director, Rebecca Cohen, news outlets from every corner of the U.S. and even overseas are writing about the twisted situation here under the big sky.  The unbelievable plight of Chris Williams and his challenge of federal law has taken the media by storm.  If you haven’t seen the brief Op/Doc, featured on The New York Times and all over the web, then click below and prepare to be infuriated:

The Fight Over Medical Marijuana

Now that the film is getting updated and screened at film festivals and college campuses virtually everywhere, it’s impact on the debate over medical freedom in this state and beyond is completely unprecedented.  Yet, it’s also in good company.

As one epic film gets the funding for a serious upgrade, two more well-funded documentaries are hitting theaters and upending the ‘debate’ over our failed drug war.  By showing, in high-definition using countless respected individuals, just how destructive our current policies have become.  Giving plenty of shelter for those wanting to denounce prohibition and sparking the interest of many who don’t (yet).  Making this a very opportune time for our newly re-elected president and other public officials to stand up for the health and basic rights of their constituents.  Because many of their highly respected peers already did, to the unquestionable delight of voters.

Our own Governor-elect Steve Bullock is among those who have gained respect from the majority, by publicly announcing his vote against our 2011 legislature’s unworkable marijuana law.  Which, despite gaining the approval of voters likely confused by its deceptive wording, has still not been fully implemented.  Because the incredible restrictions it places on medical use and distribution of the herb are very obviously unconstitutional.

Such is the basis of an ongoing lawsuit filed by the Montana Cannabis Industry Association(MTCIA).  Quite literally, the only reason our government hasn’t completely undermined safe access to the medicine for all of its officially registered users.  But the lawsuit is in dire need of more financial support to keep going.  A hearing was recently rescheduled for next month to evaluate the case.  Please visit the MTCIA for more information and the chance to help make sure their precedent-setting lawsuit is successful, by donating a little green.

The provision saying people aren’t allowed to exchange money for medicine is clearly absurd, but no match for the part where it says doctors recommending the herb must pay the government to investigate them!  Nevertheless, many of the brutally ignorant and sadly misguided provisions are in force.  Leading to massive amounts of pain and suffering; in some cases, even death.

For those of us who have stood witness over the past two years as our government has regressed further into a lost war with unquestionably vicious and terrible consequences, patience has proven to not always be a virtue.  The very real costs of an unconscionable war are only becoming more glaringly apparent, as the lamestream media focuses in on what’s easily this year’s biggest news story:  the end of cannabis prohibition, which is now well under way!!!

Obama’s Pot Problem

..Obama, the former constitutional-law professor, has relied on the expansive powers of the chief executive when it serves him politically – providing amnesty to a generation of Dream Act immigrants, or refusing to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court. A one-time pothead who gave a shout-out to his dealer in his high school yearbook, Obama could single-handedly end the insanity of marijuana being treated like heroin under the Controlled Substances Act with nothing more than an executive order.

What the president needs to act boldly, reform advocates believe, is for the rising tide of public opinion to swamp the outdated bureaucracy of the War on Drugs. “The citizens have become more savvy about the drug war,” says Franklin, the former narcotics cop. “They know this is not just a failed policy – they understand it’s also a very destructive policy.” With an eye on his legacy, Franklin says, Obama should treat pot prohibition like the costly misadventures in Iraq and Afghanistan: “This is another war for the president to end.”


Breaking the Taboo is an hour long documentary narrated by Morgan Freeman and featuring a wide array of respected political figures talking candidly about our failed drug war.  Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter and billionaire Sir Richard Branson are but a few of the names involved (Branson’s son runs the main production company, Sundog Pictures.)  The film debuted, for free, on YouTube this morning; it’s also practically everywhere you look for news, with not a soul defending the brutal policies of our continued prohibition.  Not even the famed drug war defender Kevin Sabet, who suddenly appears very open to accepting the reality that our criminalization of a health problem isn’t doing anybody one ounce of good.

Breaking the Taboo wants to turn Youtube views into political change

..According to Breaking the Taboo, the international war on drugs is a failure, and the existence of those poppy fields a continent away from their usual home is proof. If there’s money in a drug, that drug will be produced regardless of law enforcement action. But where there are drugs in Colombia, there are the cartels, and violence. Andrade continued: “When we got back, someone said to us that a battle started there between the Farc and the government exactly where we were, and that that tribe no longer existed. People died. We escaped within a matter of hours. It was a very isolated place. They don’t even sell Coca-Cola there…”

Here at Montana NORML, we are also very happy to be working with producers of the film The House I Live In to bring screenings of their explosive and award-winning documentary to communities across Montana.  We’re talking about hosting events at public libraries, college campuses, churches, and other small venues.  Our goal is to help spread education on this most urgent crisis to our fellow citizens.  Including our state lawmakers and elected officials, who we are reaching out to for their assistance in having an honest public debate and discussion of possible solutions to these appallingly unacceptable violations of basic human rights.

Comprehensive in scope, heart wrenching in its humanity, and brilliant in its thesis, Jarecki’s new film grabs viewers and shakes them to their core. The House I Live In is not only the definitive film on the failure of America’s drug war, but it is also a masterpiece filled with hope and the potential to effect change. This film is surely destined for the annals of documentary history.

If you are interested in helping us bring this film to your community, please contact us at norml@montananorml.org and give us an idea of what you’ve got in mind.  We greatly appreciate your continuing efforts and patience as we iron out the details of our various new projects.  Anyone who’d like to help us out during these times of great opportunities, please drop us a line; let us know what you’re interested in doing and where.

Those of you in or around Missoula on Dec. 18th are invited to join us at the public library; 7pm, in their large meeting room downstairs.  A digital meeting of some type is also in the works, but we need your input to figure out what technologies and times works best.  For now, here’s a preview of The House I Live In:


Montana’s Legislature is in for a nice, big Christmas treat

December 2nd, 2012 by Justin Michels No comments »

Drug war in D.C. takes aim at synthetic marijuana

Even as some states move to lessen penalties or decriminalize the possession of marijuana, a D.C. Council committee voted Thursday to strengthen city laws against synthetic forms of the drug…

Former Microsoft executive plans premium pot business

Jamen Shively, a former Microsoft executive, plans to spend the next year researching and building a retail marijuana business that he hopes will bring legitimacy to a long-illegal industry.

Shively said he brainstormed the idea after a few bong hits…

..Shively believes that others states will eventually legalize marijuana as well.

“The buzz is in the air,” Shively said. “This is a new industry in the making, and it’s going to be a giant industry and the state of Washington is going to lead the way. What Kentucky became for bourbon, the state of Washington is becoming for marijuana. It’s going to be a huge boost to the economy…”

Legalizing marijuana in Indiana, Whitesell’s comments get little support

..Whitesell’s comments add credibility to arguments that the state’s marijuana laws need to be changed, said Robin Alexander, a board member for the Indiana chapter of NORML, a group that advocates legalization of the drug.

“He’s right, he’s absolutely right, and he’s been on the force long enough to know what’s real,” Alexander told WRTV of Indianapolis. “The penalties are much too severe, and they have been for a very long time…”

Washington set to legalize marijuana use without Justice Department guidance

Adults in Washington state will be able to smoke marijuana legally when it is officially decriminalized Thursday, even though the Justice Department has offered no guidance on the conflict with federal drug laws…

..Like their counterparts in Washington, Colorado prosecutors have begun throwing out hundreds of misdemeanor marijuana cases…

..The schools rely on millions of dollars in federal funding, and officials say they are worried that failure to abide by federal marijuna laws could jeopardize the money. The federal Controlled Substances Act prohibits the production, possession and sale of marijuana and classified it as a Schedule 1 drug, putting it in the same category as LSD and heroin…

..Mexican President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto also said he is waiting to see how Justice responds to the conflict between state and federal laws. In an interview with Time magazine last week, he called for a rethinking of drug policy and the war on drugs after the legalization of marijuana in the two states

Peña Nieto’s top adviser, Luis Videgaray, has said that legalization “changes the rules of the game in the relationship with the United States” in regard to anti-drug efforts…

Medical marijuana providers unsure of what future holds

..Barring the DUI concerns, medical marijuana patients and providers can’t help but wonder what happens when the state becomes more involved in taxing and regulating pot. Some medical marijuana providers, like Alloway and Stewart, could see themselves involved in the state-regulated business, as they’re both believers in the plant itself. But Stewart said the taxes are too high for her patients, many of whom are on disability…

Letter to the Editor: How the Public Can Protest Our Insane Policy on Pot

..Not only does the government waste precious resources arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating those involved with marijuana, it ruins the lives of millions of our fellow citizens by making them criminals.

Since politicians are always the last to change course due to their fear of being labeled “soft on drugs,” the public can do something right now through the process known as jury nullification: If called to serve on a jury, simply refuse to convict anyone charged with marijuana possession…

NJWeedman Fundraising For “Jury Nullification Tour”

Robert Edward Forchion jr, – aka- NJWeedman one of the most prominent and active marijuana activists in the nation recently won a huge Jury Nullification “marijuana” case in New Jersey…

“My life was saved by Jury Nullification and I want to give back to society by helping other marijuana defendants across the country. Enlightening the local public to a Constitutional tool for “WE THE PEOPLE” to win this war on drugs with legalization”!

Supreme Court will take on ACLU breast cancer gene patent case

The U.S. Supreme Court announced today that it will consider a lawsuit challenging patents on the genes that cause breast cancer.

Jack Cole at the Center for Church and Prisons Conference

Jack Cole at the Center for Church and Prisons Conference


A story about the failure of federal medical marijuana laws and the human consequences of America’s War on Drugs.

We need your help to update CODE OF THE WEST and bring these stories to a national audience.

We just got back from shooting in Montana and now we’re going back into the editing room to add these vital updates from Tom, Chris and Richard’s stories to the film. By telling their full stories, we can extend the impact that the film has already made and give it a much better chance of being aired on national television, bringing their stories to millions of homes and people who can act on their behalf.

The above link goes directly to the “kickstarter” campaign presently under way; but, with only three short days left.  Given how much attention this story is getting, it shouldn’t take much more effort from supporters of drug policy reform to finish this political insanity right here in Montana.  We are on the front lines and your donation has a great impact on this debate, even if it is a single dollar.   Thanks for all of your continuing support!  If you are interested in helping Montana NORML and our many allies bring the other new documentary film, “The House I Live In” to our state and perhaps even directly to our legislators then please contact us at norml@montananorml.org and we will be in touch soon about our upcoming meeting and holiday celebration…


Comprehensive in scope, heart wrenching in its humanity, and brilliant in its thesis, Jarecki’s new film grabs viewers and shakes them to their core. The House I Live In is not only the definitive film on the failure of America’s drug war, but it is also a masterpiece filled with hope and the potential to effect change. This film is surely destined for the annals of documentary history.

Watch appearances by the director and executive producers

The game will never end, but it did just improve on a fundamental level

December 1st, 2012 by Justin Michels No comments »

For those of you who haven’t already heard, our nation’s failed prohibition of cannabis is now in it’s final death spasms.  There will undoubtedly be some people who refuse to believe this reality for years, but even most of their jaws are likely to drop upon hearing the breaking news that is coming out of the National Football League:

Legal marijuana may give NFL a headache

Bob McNair, owner of the Houston Texans football team, resembles an outsize caricature of a 21st century pro sports boss. He’s a 75-year-old Republican Party mega-donor who made his fortune by selling his energy corporation to Enron in 1999 (give him credit for timing). That’s what’s made McNair’s comments last week all the more interesting. After saying he would never have a “persistent user of drugs” on his beloved Texans, McNair made a point to add, “I’m not talking about someone who smoked marijuana…”

..The NFL is trying to nip this – pardon the expression – in the bud. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello didn’t even let the election-night confetti fall to the floor before he told USA Today, “The NFL’s policy is collectively bargained and will continue to apply in the same manner it has for decades. Marijuana remains prohibited under the NFL substance-abuse program. The Colorado and Washington laws will have no impact on the operation of the policy.” In addition, NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal made it even more crystal clear: “Broncos and Seattle Seahawks have been warned. ‘It’s legal’ won’t be a valid excuse.”

Aiello’s statements sound very iron-clad. The problem is that even by the NFL’s own guidelines, they are not actually true. As Mike Florio on profootballtalk.com pointed out, “The policy prohibits only the ‘illegal use’ of marijuana. While players may not abuse legal substances like alcohol, legal drugs and alcohol may be used…” (emphasis is my own, for reasons detailed below)

..One active NFL veteran who lives in a state where there is legal medicinal marijuana said to me, “A part of me always wanted to be the first player to test positive, then be able to present (NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell with) a prescription from my physician and dare him (to do something)..”

Meanwhile, the mainstream media is finally turning their attention to the case of Chris Williams and many others who’ve been severely mistreated at the hands of our corrupt government.  “The game” I referred to in the title was not our failed drug war, but the corruption which has allowed it to survive for so long at our collective expense.  Now that “big money” and conservative Republicans are standing up for basic human rights, there is no debate left to be had or proverbial stone left for prohibitionists to hide under.  But that doesn’t mean our corrupt political system is going to fix itself, we obviously have a lot of work left to be done here in Montana and across the nation.

Also on the national level is another monumental shift on government that is bound to have great impacts on the future of our law here in Montana.  A bipartisan committee of U.S. representatives has filed legislation aimed to protect individual rights from the unfortunately persistent interference of our federal government’s misguided actions.  Our state and local politicians can either join the winning side, or get left even further behind a shocked public obviously fet up with the brutal costs of this pointless war against humanity…  Here’s the latest from NORML’s national website, which includes links and a pre-formatted letter for sending to YOUR representatives!

Congressional Lawmakers Introduce Legislation To Halt Federal Interference In State Marijuana Laws

Friday, 30 November 2012

Urge your House members  to respect the will of the electorate!Urge your House members to respect the will of the electorate!

United States Representatives have introduced bipartisan legislation in Congress — House Bill 6606, The Respect States’ and Citizens’ Rights Act of 2012 — to amend the US Controlled Substances Act to provide that federal law shall not preempt state marijuana laws.

The measure is sponsored by Rep. Diana DeGette of Colorado, and is co-sponsored by Reps. Blumenauer (OR), Coffman (CO), Cohen (TN), Farr (CA), Frank (MA), Grijalva (AZ), Lee (CA), Paul (TX), and Polis (CO). It has been referred to Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.

“I am proud to join with colleagues from both sides of the aisle on the ‘Respect States’ and Citizens’ Rights Act’ to protect states’ rights and immediately resolve any conflict with thefederal government,” said Rep. DeGette in a prepared statement. “In Colorado we’ve witnessed the aggressive policies of the federal government in their treatment of legal medicinal marijuana providers. My constituents have spoken and I don’t want the federal government denying money to Colorado or taking other punitive steps that would undermine the will of our citizens.”

Added Rep. Polis, “The people of Colorado and Washington voted in overwhelming numbers to regulate the sale of marijuana. Colorado officials and law enforcement are already working to implement the will of Colorado voters, and I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues in Congress and officials in the administration to deliver clear guidance that ensures the will of the people is protected.”

House Bill 6606 states, “In the case of any State law that pertains to marihuana, no provision of this title shall be construed as indicating an intent on the part of the Congress to occupy the field in which that provision operates, including criminal penalties, to the exclusion of State law on the same subject matter, nor shall any provision of this title be construed as preempting any such State law.”

While it is unlikely that members of Congress will address this measure in the final days of the 112th session, it is anticipated that Representatives will reintroduce the measure in 2013. Nonetheless, it is important that you begin getting in touch with your House members now and that you urge them to respect the will of the electorate. A pre-written letter in support of HR 6606 will be sent to your member of Congress when you visit NORML’s Take Action center here:


The NORML Team


Contradictory Laws Never Work — it’s time for a grown-up conversation about marijuana

November 29th, 2012 by Justin Michels No comments »

Here in Montana, voters recently approved the drastic changes to our medical marijuana program that our representatives had already passed back in 2011.  Most people intimately familiar with the program and the collateral damage caused by our new law, SB423, understandably saw this as a huge setback for people who rely on the herb for medical relief and for the now virtually non-existent industry that was booming only two short years ago.  There is already a proposed ballot measure for 2014, which seeks to remove all criminal penalties for all responsible adults in the state who choose to use the herb for any reason.

Yet, it’s hard to argue with critics and public officials who keep pointing out that none of our state laws matter so long as our federal government says the plant is illegal.  Something Chris Williams likely knows all too well, sitting in a prison cell despite his well-documented efforts to follow state law to the letter.  As do war veterans, city employees and countless others who live in the state but are employed by companies who feel entitled to drug test their workers because federal law says its okay.  Insurers also fail to recognize the plant as medicine because it is still classified as a “schedule I narcotic” by the federal government and, subsequently, our state’s own drug scheduling (which is essentially a mirror of the federal law, much like our state’s constitution is a mirror of the original.)

Now that two states have successfully legalized marijuana for all adults, most people involved with NORML and other drug policy reform advocacy groups are convinced the solution is to keep pushing the case through the court of public opinion and changing laws in individual states through ballot initiatives.  Yet, this is guaranteed to take a huge amount of concerted effort and (obviously) a lot of time.  But, so I’ve been told more times than I care to count, this is the way it must be done.  If, for no other reason, because that’s how alcohol prohibition was finally overcome.  My conclusion, however, is that we are missing out on a much simpler, faster and more just way of fixing our laws; both on a local and federal level.

The key here, believe it or not, is the federal government’s own Controlled Substances Act (CSA); which presently classifies marijuana as a “schedule I narcotic” and is what drug warriors invariably use to defend these misguided policies.  Specifically, what I’m referring to are the guidelines painstakingly laid out in the CSA that explain what is to be done if a substance (in this case, marijuana) is found to have medical use.  The intent of the law is clearly NOT to prevent the herb from being used as medicine simply because it is classified as “schedule I”; as it has been falsely construed by those seeking to defend the current policies.  Rather, it says that any substance being recommended by physicians and proven not to meet the strict qualifications for being deemed “schedule I” is to be re-evaluated on a scientific basis by the Attorney General and either reclassified to an appropriate schedule or removed from the scheduling process altogether (like alcohol and tobacco.)

Obviously, A.G. Eric Holder, Jr. isn’t exactly chomping at the bit to properly address the glaring contradiction of the plant’s widespread medical use and outdated status as a dangerous narcotic.  But, the mainstream press is finally paying close attention to this ongoing battle over medical freedom and advocacy groups including Montana NORML are helping to shape the exponentially increasing public debate.  Leaving the defenders of prohibition with no place left to hide, if we play our cards right and start working with each other for a change.  This “us versus them” mentality, where we ask people to choose between a failed prohibition or a relatively untested “legalization”, has created a false paradigm that neglects basic facts and massive human rights violations.  Something that’s become all the more urgent and apparent now that the United Nations’ drug czar has called on President Obama to prevent Colorado and Washington from following the obvious will of their citizens.  Ironically enough, at the same time as many Latin American leaders are using these votes and increased media scrutiny to call for a drastically improved approach to our international drug war.

In a recent speech, President Obama said of the impending ‘fiscal cliff’ and potential for tax hikes among the middle class that “It’s too important for Washington to screw this up.”  He’s also encouraged the public to bum rush Congress with Twitter hashtag #my2k, in an apparent nod to the ever increasing power of social media to influence policy decisions.  My suggestion is that the vast legions of people working to reform our marijuana laws need to follow his lead and use social media networks to reshape the conversation now unfolding practically everywhere you look.  This new direction may not fit easily into a hashtag, but it can be broken down simply enough to where our representatives will have no excuse for ignoring it.

Over 80% of the country now supports people’s right to use marijuana as medicine, so why does our government insist on classifying it as more dangerous than cocaine and methamphetamine?  It’s not a question of whether or not we should be legalizing marijuana, it’s a question of why our government still refuses to accept the undeniable reality that marijuana has medical uses and is far safer than practically anything the pharmaceutical companies have ever derived from mother nature.

State lawmakers here in Montana will have the opportunity to address these glaring contradictions in their upcoming legislative session; which is something that both the democratic and republican parties acknowledged as a priority in their official platforms prior to the election.  We also have an incoming Governor who happens to be the current Attorney General and came out publicly in favor of repealing the infamous SB423.  It is not only imperative these people work together and come up with a real solution to this ongoing trainwreck of wasted resources and ruined lives, it is OUR job as their constituents to make sure they finally get it right and start leading the way forward.  Send a brief letter to the editor, contact your local representatives and help educate your friends about the facts; particularly on the relative safety of medical cannabis, pot, marijuana, ganja, or whatever else you want to call it.  The time for reform is now; and, like it or not, we are each responsible for making it happen.