May 292010
 May 29, 2010

My best friend is a registered patient in the Montana Medical Marijuana Program. I was on the phone with him earlier today, and he was surprised to hear about Montana Senator Jim Shockley’s (R-Victor) attempts to repeal the Montana Medical Marijuana Program. Earlier this week, Sen. Jim Shockley requested that a bill be created for the 2011 Legislature, which would repeal the current law. “It was a good idea, poorly executed,” Shockley said. “I wouldn’t want everybody growing (prescription painkiller) Percocet, either.” Well no sh%t Sherlock! Percocet kills people all the time and is EXTREMELY addictive; marijuana is not even close to Percocet, and comparing the two is ludicrous.

There has “been uncontrolled use of the drug,” Shockley said. “I think it breeds lawlessness.” Senator Shockley claims that he doesn’t want to stamp out medical marijuana completely; he just wants to repeal the current law and put his own in place. Sounds very Democratic of you Mr. Shockley (insert sarcastic tone)! Last time I checked, politicians were elected by voters to carry out the will of the people. Considering Montana has one of the highest rates of medical marijuana participation in the country (per capita), and also considering the fact that the law was approved by voters by an overwhelming margin (roughly 62%), wouldn’t the evidence clearly show that the people of Montana want medical marijuana the way it is now?

In a rare occurrence, there is actually opposition coming from within the medical marijuana community itself. Tom Daubert, of Helena, who helped lead the fight to legalize medical marijuana in Montana said, “The law doesn’t need to be repealed, but it definitely needs to be fixed. I completely agree that all growing and dispensing needs to be heavily monitored by the state.” According to the previously cited article Daubert “said some medical marijuana promoters, namely Jason Crist, founder and executive director of Missoula’s Montana Caregivers Network, are cynically exploiting flaws in the law. Daubert called those a ‘factory circus clinic’ and said such ‘behaviors are nails in the coffin of this law and disrespecting the genuine needs of worthy patients.’

“What I’m finding is that caregivers are very conscientious,” said Jason Crist. Caregivers “really want to do everything the right way, which I attribute to the kindness and compassion of Montanans for fellow Montanans.” The Montana Caregivers Network has received a lot of heat lately due to a recent fine levied on one of their doctors, Dr. Patricia Cole. The Montana Board of Medical Examiners fined Dr. Cole $2,000 for what they called ‘substandard care,’ after determining that Dr. Cole spent roughly six minutes with her patients at a clinic in Great Falls.

“Dr. Cole’s practice of seeing scores of new patients in one day is below the standard of care, particularly given that physicians commonly afford new patients greater time than that allotted for established patients,” said the Board. I wonder if the Montana Board of Medical Examiners is currently investigating any non-medical marijuana doctors for the same practice. Think about it; when you go to the doctor, how much ACTUAL time do you spend with them??

I recently had to go to my primary physician (not the doc that signs my MMJ forms) and the process was very typical of an average doctor visit (I was there for hand pain). I waited in the lobby for about 20 minutes for the doctor to ‘be ready,’ after which I was directed to a smaller room for more waiting. The nurse took my blood pressure and jotted some notes and then left me alone in the room. After another ten minutes of waiting, my primary physician popped in, asked me what was wrong, wrote a prescription for some nasty painkillers, and told me to come back if I had any problems. How much time did I spend ACTUALLY talking with my primary physician?…About six minutes!! The entire process took more like 45 minutes, but as far as face time with my primary physician, it was six to eight minutes tops!

So my question to the Montana Board of Medical Examiners is this; how is my typical experience any different then what goes on at a Montana Caregivers Network clinic? From what I can tell, the Montana Caregivers Network cuts out a lot of the BS and gets straight to the point. If my primary physician cut out all the BS and streamlined his process, he would be seeing just as many people a day as Dr. Patricia Cole. I don’t think that Dr. Cole should be penalized for being efficient, do you? She is merely providing a valuable service that people obviously want, what’s wrong with that?

The fact of the matter is that the Montana Board of Medical Examiners is trying to make an example out of Dr. Patricia Cole, and are no doubt being pressured by special interests to do so. If they crack down on one medical marijuana doctor, the Board knows it will send a chilling effect to any other doctor that wants to provide their signature for medical marijuana. Before I started this blog, I would have sided with Tom Daubert on the issue of traveling medical clinics. I would have agreed that by increasing access to so many people, it would eventually look bad on the program, and therefore affect access for the patients that need medical marijuana the most.

However, after researching medical marijuana in every state that allows it, and more importantly the laws that go with them, I now feel that ANYONE and EVERYONE should be allowed to get a medical marijuana card, period. If you can buy OTC’s that can kill you, then why shouldn’t you be able to use medical marijuana with the same discretion? I will admit that there are going to be people that take advantage of the situation, but that is bound to happen in any arena, medical marijuana or otherwise. Responsible marijuana consumers with qualifying ailments (no matter how major or minor) shouldn’t have to pay the price because a very small minority of people are idiots. I tip my hat to Dr. Cole and the people at the Montana Caregivers Network. I hope they continue to sign 150+ cards in a weekend, and if Montana neo-cons in the legislature don’t like it, then that’s their problem. As for you Mr. Jim Shockley — how about you pull your head out of your conservative bum and realize that this is AMERICA, where votes count and the people’s will is the rule of the day! If you would like to tell Montana Senator Jim Shockley how you feel, just click the link for his contact info.

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About Johnny Green

Johnny Green is a marijuana activist from Oregon. He has a Bachelor's Degree in Public Policy. Follow Johnny Green on Facebook and Twitter. Also, feel free to email any concerns.
  • Joshua

    I think this is absolutly obsurd! Senator Barkus crashes a boat into a cliff at Flathead Lake last summer with a blood alcohol level twice the legal limit and marijuana is breeding lawlessness! lol! I am a caregiver in the Flathead Valley and I have served in the US military, served 3 tours of duty in Iraq, and been a police officer. My patients are all very good people trying to get safe access to their medicine. A natural plant without all the side effects that come with pharmaceutical drugs/alcohol. We all know what Shockleys big deal is with medical marijuana and any other government official trying to get this law retracted. It will not happen! Medical marijuana is here to stay and I am fine with them regulating my mmj business and charging licensing fees. However, to use the media to slander cannabis and say that the uncontrolled use of the plant causes lawlessness is crazy. Lawlessness is when almost 50% of fatalities from automotive accidents are related to alcohol. Where are the regulations on that! Sounds like all of this mess surrounded medical marijuana is a big waste of taxpayers dollars that could be going to a much more needed area. One that is actually killing over 100 people a year in the state of Montana

    • Hezedia Johnson

      You have an excellent point Joshua. Alcohol is way worse than weed. No disputing that. I have a question as a caregiver on a different subject though. Goes like this; can a care giver who also holds a patient card, in Montana, grow 12 plants legally in the same location? And for that matter can an additional caregiver/patient grow 12 plants in the same location, effectively growing 24 plants for two people?
      Seems like yes to me but want to know if anyone else has any solid legal knowledge on this subject. Thanks, Hez