There was an unusual moment of silence inside the Wilma Theatre during the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival on Monday evening. Code of the West Director Rebecca Richman Cohen stood on the stage and dialed up on her cell phone Cherrie Brady, of Safe Community Safe Kids, the Billings-based group that helped put the kibosh on Montana's medical marijuana industry.
"She's not going to answer," hollered a slender, tattooed woman. Another man in a brown baseball cap said, "Tell her, 'Her kids could do a lot worse than to turn out like me.'"
The tattooed woman was right. Brady didn't answer. She was slated to participate in a debate after a screening of the work-in-progress Code of the West, which documents the debate over medical marijuana that played out during the 2011 Montana Legislature. Brady doesn't want Montana to become a destination for pot peddlers. In the film she's the antagonist to the medical marijuana advocates.
Code of the West filmmakers also followed Republican House Speaker Mike Milburn as he introduced a bill that aims to repeal Montana's Medical Marijuana Act. During a strategizing session on the bill, the legislator from Cascade told his colleagues that he used to be a fighter pilot. As such, he said one must negotiate from a position of strength.
Milburn's bill died in committee March 14, 2011the same day federal law enforcement agencies executed 26 search warrants at marijuana dispensaries across the state. Filmmakers interviewed Milburn after the raids. He smirked. "I don't have a lot of compassion, I guess, for their industry," he said.
The smirk stood out in stark contrast to the fear expressed by marijuana advocate Tom Daubert during interviews conducted roughly two months after the raids. Daubert didn't know then if he would face federal charges for his work with Montana Cannabis, which grew to be among the largest dispensaries in the state. Daubert left the business before the legislative session and the raids. "I've never felt terror until right after the raids," he said.
Daubert isn't the only former caregiver who feels terrorized by the feds. His story reflects hundreds of other providers who believed they were protected under Montana law and now fear prosecution.
It's too bad Brady was a no-show. Fireworks in the Wilma could've been fun.