As the first decade of the 21st century draws to a close, a quick reminder of the remarkable cannabis-related reforms in Montana:
2001: Two years after Montana NORML volunteers penned a House Resolution calling upon federal authorities to end the prohibition of industrial hemp, the Montana legislature legalizes the crop, and directs the Department of Agriculture to develop rules regulating implementation. (The Department finally issues its first permit in 2009.) Nationwide, support for treating marijuana as a legal substance hovers around 31%.
2004: Montana legalizes medical marijuana by citizens’ initiative. Montana NORML publicizes the signature gathering campaign and rallies support in the public. The initiative passes by a record margin of any other state at the time. More people voted for marijuana than George W. Bush (who won decisively in Montana). Nationwide, support for treating marijuana as a legal substance hovers around 34%.
2006: Missoula County voters pass Initiative #2, which calls upon government law enforcement agents to treat adult marijuana use as their lowest possible priority. County officials later amend the initiative to apply only to misdemeanors, causing great public outcry. The trend continues, and support for legal marijuana nationwide reaches 36%.
2009: The state legislature considers more marijuana legislation (good and bad) than in all previous sessions combined. The medical marijuana scene in Montana goes commercial, with lots of display advertising and storefronts opening in many cities, sending some cities scrambling to regulate — or temporarily ban — them. Over 5,000 patients registered, with as many as 500 new applications being sent in every week. Nationwide, support for legalizing marijuana approaches (or exceeds) 50%, with support strongest in the West, where most people want to legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol.
It was tremendous decade of reform, to be sure.
The Road Ahead:
Much work remains. The “wild west” character of the medical marijuana scene will likely provoke a backlash in the 2011 legislature. Patients & Families United and the new Medical Growers Association will need to be alert and ready to defend the interests of patients and caregivers against bad bills that unjustifiably restrict medical marijuana.
Montana NORML will push for both regulation and decriminalization bills in the 2011 legislature, and we’re hopeful that in 2010 we (or our allies) will locate legislators with the courage to introduce them.
If you’d like to support our efforts, please join our mailing list, be our Facebook fan, follow us on Twitter, and consider making a donation. The future looks bright for cannabis reform, but we need all the help we can get.