The Billings Outpost

SB 423: bad idea

There seems to be much confusion over Senate Bill 423. Senate Bill 423 is Montana’s Marijuana Act, put into place by the 2011 Legislature. SB423 is a bill that repealed and replaced voter Initiative 148, which was approved by 62% of Montana Voters in 2004.

SB 423 is not medical marijuana regulation, as supporters of this bill would like you to believe. SB 423 makes no mention of medical marijuana; the program is now called the Montana Marijuana Program. Participants in this program are no longer called patients, but “registered card holders.”

SB 423 has no state oversight, meaning that production and distribution of marijuana for medical purposes is not regulated or overseen by any state department, agency or regulatory committee. The Department of Health and Human Services simply issues cards and sets administrative rules and fees. It does not oversee any regulatory aspect of the program. In fact, SB 423 even bans labs and testing facilities, allowing no testing or any type of quality control.

After the governor vetoed a full repeal bill, SB 423 was thrown together in the last few weeks of the legislative session. The goal, to come as close to eliminating the program as the Legislature could get. SB 423 punishes and penalizes those who try to participate.

SB 423 limits providers, formerly called caregivers, to two patients and does not allow them to be compensated in any way. They must grow and give away their product for free. SB423 actually creates a widely distributed system of production (lots of small growers) and eliminates all professional organizations that could actually be subject to strict regulations. Basically this is a “hippy system” of unregulated masses growing their own, as opposed to any kind of controlled regulatory system.

SB 423 allows for warrantless searches of any place marijuana is grown, including private residences. This is a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Article II, Section 11, of the Montana Constitution. It also bans all forms of advertising, a clear violation of the freedom of speech.

It mandates all participants in the program be disclosed to law enforcement. Cardholders who are pulled over by law enforcement can be forced to submit a blood sample, simply because they participate in the program.

SB423 interferes with the Doctor / Patient relationship by forcing doctors to limit their recommendations for medical marijuana to 25 patients per year, or face a costly investigation by the medical board of examiners.

SB 423 will leave well over 5,400 current cardholders without a provider. If these cardholders cannot grow their own medicine, (and many people cannot grow for themselves for numerous reasons), they will no longer be able to participate in the program and forced to give up their card.

Supporters of SB423 claim this law is more in line with the voter’s original intent in 2004. The voters definitely intended for participants to be able to legally obtain medical marijuana. SB 423 doesn’t even allow participants to do that.

Overturning SB 423 in the November election isn’t about going backward. Voting against SB 423 sends a clear message to our Legislature that Montanans want to move forward toward reasonable, workable regulation that can benefit the people the voters intended to help in 2004.

Elizabeth Pincolini


Last Updated on Friday, 12 October 2012 10:55

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Romney wrong on energy

When Romney ridicules Obama’s commitment to slow climate change, he overlooks how excessive fossil fuel use causes sea level rise. Guess Romney doesn’t care if water swamps those off-shore islands where he stashes his cash.

That callous attitude is not the only flaw in Romney’s “business” model. It leaves U.S. business stuck with unneeded energy costs while other countries rapidly embrace clean technologies that don’t have fuel and pollution control expenses as a component of electricity price.

The European Union already has 94 gigawatts of wind-generated capacity; China has 63 GW — ahead of the U.S. (50 GW). Chinese wind-turbine capacity will rise to 200 GW by 2020 — enough to power 55 percent of U.S. primary homes.

By 2020, China will get 15 percent of its electrons from non-fossil fuels; Denmark (already producing 32 percent of its electricity with wind turbines) will increase that to 50 percent.

Eighty-three nations use wind power for commercial purposes. The cheaper electricity there makes it even tougher for U.S. businesses already struggling to compete with cheap foreign labor.

Meanwhile, Romney and some Republicans propose to hobble us further by eliminating the bipartisan production tax credit (PTC) for U.S. wind projects. Several major companies want congress to extend the PTC. They rely on a Navigant Consulting study. It estimates that extending the PTC to 2016 will result in 95,000 wind-supported jobs. However, killing the PTC will result in the loss of more than 37,000 American jobs in 2013. If he knew how to create jobs as he claims, Romney would not be waging war on wind projects.

The PTC on wind energy goes away when it is not needed. That happens after a turbine operates for 10 years and installation costs are covered. The credit has ranged from 1.5 to 2.2 cents a kilowatt hour (kWh). However, those tax breaks actually repay themselves by driving energy costs down.

For example, power from Montana’s Judith Gap wind farm has been 0.5 to 2.1 cents/kWh cheaper than electricity from coal. So, a large amount of the PTC incentive has been recovered in increased savings for rate (tax) payers. By 2015 the credit will cease for that project. Then, the savings from wind power will more than “repay” what has been “fronted” from the PTC. Also, the overall power price is lower because less natural gas is used to produce electricity when the wind blows. It’s one thing driving down the cost of gas used for home heating and power generation.

The PTC also levels an uneven playing field caused by non-tax subsidies fossil fuels now enjoy. To make coal power generation almost as clean as wind generation, we’d have to scrub more pollutants and sequester carbon dioxide from conventional power plants. That will add 2.5 to 5 cents/kWh to electric bills. Romney ignores that cost.

Finally, Romney’s belief that the private sector is the best or only place to develop U.S. jobs is passé. Subsidies by foreign governments change that. They stack the deck in favor of their monopolies. Thus, U.S. industry must compete in a less-than-free market. That’s the message from Solyndra’s bankruptcy — not the misleading disparagements of its loan guarantee that Republican campaign ads portray. Here’s what those ads leave out.

When our government guaranteed $535 million in Solyndra bonds, even Wall Street thought thin-cell solar panel manufacturing was a good bet. Then the Chinese government pumped $30-plus billion into Chinese companies manufacturing silicon solar cells. It drove the price of silicon cells down. That eliminated the price advantage Solyndra’s thin-cell technology had when the U.S. guaranteed its loan. Thus Chinese subsidies ruined Solyndra.

Those subsidies also threatened other U.S. manufacturing until Obama slapped a tariff on Chinese solar panels. It’s part of prudent policy that has increased the U.S.-made portion of wind turbines installed here from 25 percent in 2005 to 60-plus percent today; policy that “knows how” to create jobs with subsidies that repay themselves; policy that leaves us better off now than we were in 2005.

Russ Doty


Last Updated on Thursday, 11 October 2012 10:56

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Vote for seniority

As a third-generation Montanan whose family homesteaded in Loesch, I look at the long term when deciding how to cast my vote. I am surprised that Denny Rehberg decided to throw away a six-term seniority in the U.S. House of Representatives. In 12 years, he had finally gotten onto the powerful Congressional Appropriations Committee.

In six years, Sen. Tester scored five committee appointments important to Montana: Senate Appropriations, Indian Affairs, Veterans’ Affairs, Homeland Security, and Banking where he chairs the Economic Policy Subcommittee.

Add it up and you’ll see that a Rehberg win would wipe out 18 years of cumulative seniority in the Montana delegation and remove the one bona fide farmer in the Senate.

Montana is a small population state with only three people to represent us. We need senators and a congressperson who will work tirelessly for Montana. And we must think long term and maintain Montana’s influence in Congress. A vote FOR Tester is a vote FOR Seniority.

Mark Mackin


Last Updated on Thursday, 11 October 2012 10:55

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Backing Bucy

I met Pam Bucy for the first time at a women’s meeting in Missoula. She spoke about seeking to become attorney general at November’s election. She impressed me as being the most intelligent woman I have ever met, and when she talked about the law, it was obvious she had so much experience in the field already. If the attorney general is Montana’s top cop and top lawyer, Pam is the woman for the job. She has already been there, working in the Attorney General’s office. I like to listen to people speak. I love politicians who can get me to cheer, but Pam, I just stood back in awe. As she spoke about the position, I had to admire her sheer knowledge of the field. Only experience can speak that way. She won my confidence, my respect, and admiration that day, and in November she has already won my vote.

Marilyn J. Ellis


Last Updated on Thursday, 11 October 2012 10:54

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Vote Romney-Ryan

I am compelled to write as we approach the most critical election in this nation’s history since World War II.

In light of the uprisings and Embassy attacks in the Middle East since 9-11-12, the “blame” game has continued by the current administration. They blamed it on an obscure YouTube short video. They could have easily blamed Obama since his speech in Cairo in 2009, promising to close Gitmo in January 2010. Heck, he ordered it closed with his own words to us, “Gitmo will be closed,” and noting happened. His first presidential verbal order and it fell flat. Leadership ’09?.

The polls show that Obama’s approval ratings on foreign policy dropped after 9-11-12. Right now U.S. Navy Seals are dropping like flies too: Three since Osama Bin Laden was taken out about a year ago.

The Democratic National Convention omitted “God” and “Jerusalem” from their platform and stumbled badly after they somewhat voted to replace them.

They honored U.S. veterans with pictures of Russian naval warships on their big screen TV behind those honored vets. Worst DNC convention ever. Mistake or insult?

Obama would rather go on David Letterman and meet with the president of Egypt than to meet with the PM of Israel and mingle with Beyonce. He’ll probably be the first U.S. president never to visit Israel while he holds this office.

If you want all liberal U.S. Supreme Court justices, then Obama’s your choice. You are going to be shocked when you see who Obama is going to pardon when he leaves office too. It’s a coin toss if our troops will have their votes counted this time, but the Department of Defense isn’t making it easy for them to vote this time, either.

If you don’t give Romney-Ryan a chance, it’s going to be your fault this time. The fate of our county is in your hands, too. There might not be another one anytime later.

J. Mironack


Last Updated on Thursday, 04 October 2012 22:07

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Killing coal

It is clear by now that the federal Environmental Protection Agency intends to destroy the U.S. coal industry.

This summer, the EPA moved towards restricting coal train traffic and now there is the pending 2015 shutdown of the coal-fired PPL Montana Corette Power Plant here in Billings.

As voters we have a responsibility. EPA is a federal agency that reports to, and works at, the direction of the Executive Branch (U.S. president). Either make a change there or make the change in the legislative branch (Congress), which funds the agency. Either approach works.

James E. Reno

Yellowstone County commissioner

Last Updated on Saturday, 29 September 2012 20:10

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