One of my best friends lives in Montana, and has for several years now. He was born and raised in Oregon, but after getting out of the military and reconnecting with his grandparents, he decided to move to Missoula. He was a frequent cannabis consumer and had been for quite sometime prior to moving to Montana. His mom grew hands down some of the best cannabis I’ve ever consumed, and that was way before cannabis was as mainstream as it is now. So when he moved to Montana and I asked him for his opinion on the cannabis scene there, I knew I’d get an educated opinion.
When he first moved there (2007 I believe), he said that the cannabis wasn’t that good, was hard to find, and cost a ton, at least compared to back home in Oregon. He would often text me asking what I was smoking on and wanted to know every little detail about the strain, how much it cost, etc. in an attempt to live vicariously through me. That all changed a couple of years later when the medical marijuana scene in Montana seemed to go through a dramatic change.
More doctors were signing up more patients, more growers were linking up with those patients, and a zesty medical marijuana scene began to grow in Montana. It seemed like almost overnight my buddy was now contacting me to share pictures and info about Montana cannabis that was comparable in price and quality to what was in Oregon. But that didn’t last long. It had seemed that to at least some Montana residents, medical marijuana had spread to far too fast, and backlash started. I remember around the time that this blog first started in 2010, someone threw a fire bomb into a dispensary in Billings with a note saying something to the effect of ‘not in my town.’
That was followed by many arrests and a legal showdown that dramatically changed the medical marijuana landscape in Montana. Last month Montana’s Supreme Court issued a ruling which upheld a lot of provisions that were aimed at shrinking Montana’s medical marijuana program. One of the provisions limited the number of patients a provider can help – 2 patients per provider, unless the provider is a patient themselves, at which point the person can provide for 3 patients. So if there’s only one good grower in the area, which I’m sure is common in a largely rural state like Montana, you better make the short list or you are out of luck. That’s the new reality for medical marijuana patients in Montana.
And the worst part is that it could get worse. If a campaign in Montana has its way, medical marijuana will be completely illegal in Montana once again. Per The Missoulian:
Safe Montana’s ballot initiative, I-176, would repeal the medical marijuana program and align the drug with illegal status under federal law.
The campaign has staff across the state and has spent more than $18,000 since January on its efforts. Zabawa himself has put $35,000 into the campaign. On Tuesday, he said that they have about half of the 24,000 required signatures to get his issue on the November ballot.
A competing ballot initiative, I-178, aims to legalize recreational marijuana. The leader of that campaign, Anthony Varriano of Glendive, said Tuesday that he estimates they have between 8,000 and 10,000 signatures.
There are still roughly 13,000 medical marijuana patients in Montana. And while I expect that number to reduce because a lot of patients won’t be able to find a grower and will likely just end up going back to the black market, the remaining patients should still be able to seek out legal safe access to medical marijuana in some limited form if they are able. There are no doubt dying people in Montana that desperately need medical marijuana to alleviate their suffering and/or help them survive. To take away their medicine is heartless and shameful, which is exactly how I feel about the Montana I-176 campaign.