This is my final article as the Missoula Medical Marijuana Examiner; I'd considered leaving this post without one, however I must give one final outlet to the collective rage of medical patients across the state. Folks are all telling me the same sad stories of destroyed lives, lost businesses, even state-sanctioned imprisonment for former medical marijuana caregivers, and everyone wants to know why.
A local Elementary school teacher asked me, "Are we safer now? Can the state point to any appreciable change in any relevant statistics resulting from the effective repeal of our medical marijuana law?". This is an excellent question; during the previous legislative session, the Congressional committee overseeing Department of Health and Human Services were told by numerous education and law enforcement officials that kids were getting "addicted" to marijuana at unprecedented rates because of the medical marijuana law. There is no research in Montana to support this claim, and research from the CDC on teen marijuana use rates in Colorado actually indicate the opposite; medical marijuana laws result in a statistically significant decline in marijuana usage rates among teens.
An email I received from a senior citizen in Montana read simply, "Where am I going to get my medicine? I don't have black market connections, but I still have a medical marijuana card and there are no more storefronts left." While the legislature did theoretically allow for in-state cultivation, the regulations put in place and the prohibition on recouping any financial investment in a cannabis garden effectively ended domestic, legal cannabis production. There are theories that the Mexican cartel is behind this, protecting their criminal monopoly over marijuana markets in Montana by preventing anyone else from selling the drug; others believe that the pharmaceutical companies are actively working to protect their control over all forms of pain medicine. Whether or not these theories are true is beside the point, because the effect is the same; dangerous criminals have been put in charge of supplying Montana's medical marijuana population. Criminals with organized crime connections, no morals, and the desire to profit at all costs. These are the people that the legislature expects you to buy your marijuana from, since they are the only ones left.
One final comment came in a few months ago from a farmer living outside of Arlee; "We went through hell and high water to get that medical marijuana law passed- I walked around collecting signatures way back in 2003. We got 62% support for access to medical marijuana- ain't a single lawmaker with approval ratings near that high- and they took that away. What the hell do we do now?" The state of Montana, specifically the legislature, has made it very clear that they don't care how we feel about the issue of marijuana. When Montanans grew tired of the "Wild West" mentality and demanded more regulations on the industry, state legislators like Senator Jeff Essman used that opportunity to destroy the medical marijuana industry under the guise of tighter regulations. It is useless to fight against elected officials who can oppose grassroots movements with widespread support and still win re-election; there is clearly a deeper problem here which marijuana has exposed, but itself cannot fix. Montana must get its legislature working properly again as a representative, responsive government of the people before medical marijuana can make a reappearance.
My personal advice to medical marijuana patients who need consistent access to high quality cannabis is to leave the state immediately. While support for medical marijuana runs high among traditional Montanans, who truly believe in a "live and let live" philosophy, the scare tactics deployed by prohibitionists (Protect Our Children!) are still too successful in the state for any fact-based policy-making to prevail. As long as unfounded opinions can be used to challenge known facts about marijuana, medical patients in Montana are doomed to live in fear and uncertainty.
Thank you all very much for your support, your emails, responses, and the thousands of hours you have all spent collectively taking the time to read these articles. I pray that one day our laws will change back and once again allow our sick and disabled the access to medical marijuana that citizens in 20 other states currently enjoy.
R.I.P. Robin Prosser 2007