It’s the medical marijuana issue, stupid.
A year ago, there were more than 30,000 marijuana patients, 5,000 growers (most helping fewer than three patients) and who knows how many close relatives and friends of these patients. Today, all have been betrayed by the state and federal governments. Most are now unwilling even to be named on a state list of registered patients.
But all will vote, and few will ever again vote for any candidate who doesn’t speak and act to end our nation’s horribly failed war on marijuana users.
Six years ago, Jon Tester won by only about 3,000 votes. More than 2,000 of these likely came from the new voters in Missoula County who had registered to support a county initiative to recommend making adult marijuana possession the lowest law enforcement priority.
Federal raids of state-licensed medical marijuana producers, coupled with the extremism of the state legislature last year, decimated hundreds of farming jobs and brought renewed misery to the lives of thousands of sincere Montana patients. The petitioning process for a referendum on the legislature’s repeal of medical marijuana led 5,000 more new voters to register last summer. All of them are furious over this issue, and more are registering now to support an amendment to the state constitution on marijuana.
No one expected Tester to end the federal war on marijuana patients and their providers. No one expected him to single-handedly force the federal government to adopt an intellectually honest policy based on science. But when federal agencies zoomed into Montana and on a single day raided the Montana equivalent of more than 900 raids in California, we did expect him to at least say something supportive. When he says nothing, even in the face of dozens of federal prosecutions, in which no amount of honorable adherence to the state law can even be mentioned in court, then Montana patients and their friends and relatives cannot forgive or forget.
Shame on Sens. Tester and Max Baucus and Rep. Denny Rehberg. Shame on all of them for doing and saying absolutely nothing to defend honest Montanans against exactly the kind of overzealous police-state federal government that Thomas Jefferson and the founding fathers warned against.
Then there’s Attorney General Steve Bullock, who sold the state’s patients and their loved ones down the river in numerous ways. He refused to effectively enforce the law voters had adopted. He refused to help develop stricter rules that patient leaders and the health department sought, and again said and did nothing when the federal raids came. Many of us believe he had a hand in making the raids happen, to take a controversy off the table to clear the way for his next political ambition. And now he expects Montanans to trust that he will fight to defend all of us, as governor?
Gov. Brian Schweitzer is no better. He vetoed the first repeal bill, but he could have done so much over the years to help make the voter-passed medical marijuana law work smoothly, and he refused as well. Marijuana may not have been too hot for him to handle when he smoked it in college, but as governor, he cowered from the political heat of it, watched and allowed it to die. That’s not leadership. It’s cowardice. It’s not Montana values, either.
Many, many thousands of us will never again vote for any candidate who doesn’t speak and act to defend basic patient rights and to reform old-fashioned, cruel and failed drug policies. This may bring short-term electoral chaos since there are almost no Republicans we can support either, but we will stick with it for years to come. This November will see the beginning of a sustained and growing single-issue voter movement for marijuana reform, and we won’t stop until the insanity ends. We owe this much to our fallen comrades, now in federal prison, and our fallen patients, some now dead and others suffering unnecessarily. In the words of the Occupy movement: We will not forgive. We will not forget. Expect us.
Shane “Moose” Combs