Elwood English, one of the delegates to Helena for the Republican Party’s mid-June platform convention, announced a major change to the GOP platform on Sunday at the Billings Universalist Unitarian Fellowship in Billings.
He said the Republican Party delegates added a plank stating that the GOP supports the Montana Legislature’s efforts to “create a workable and realistic regulatory structure” instead of just repealing Montana’s Medical Marijuana Act.
“It just made my heart glad,” he told other members of the Fellowship. “I was just a delegate,” he said, “and they don’t have to follow the platform at all, but it felt good to make the change.”
Bowen Greenwood, the executive director of the Montana Republican Party, said such language of the party platform is tentative until he confirms the changes with the official minutes taken by the party secretary.
Here is the full statement about medical marijuana adopted by the Crime Committee of the Republican Platform Convention: “We recognize that a significant problem exists with Montana’s current laws regarding the medical use of marijuana and we support action by the next legislature to create a workable and realistic regulatory structure.”
Mr. English, a former Yellowstone County commissioner, provided an update on the status of Montana’s Medical Marijuana Program, saying that Senate Bill 423 is under constitutional review by the Montana Supreme Court.
SB 423 severely restricted Montana’s freewheeling medical marijuana program. Its provisions included banning public storefronts for medical marijuana businesses, denying medical marijuana providers any ability to earn compensation or profit from their products and services, and limiting the number of people whom providers are allowed to help cope with debilitating side effects from chemotherapy, chronic pain, terminal illness, cachexia and other diseases with little or no hope of improvement.
Similarly, for the first time, the Democrats added Montana’s Medical Marijuana Program to its platform too. The Democratic Party platform, according to a blog for the Ravalli Republic, includes the following point on medical marijuana: “Support for the rights of qualified patients with medical conditions to have access to medical marijuana where it is appropriate.”
Why are both major parties, for the first time, including specific language designed to benefit the program?
Have the parties finally concluded that initiatives like Initiative 148, which created Montana’s medical marijuana program, that are passed by voters should be changed, in a parallel manner, only by voters?
Have the parties taken a look at other states’ constitutions, some of which enshrine the idea that voter initiatives can be altered only by the people who vote in that state, and not by the states’ legislatures?
The 2011 Montana Legislature produced, via Sen. Jeff Essmann, R-Billings, SB 423, which is “bat crap crazy,” according to Bob Brigham, the spokesman for Montana First, an organization working to gain rights for patients.
“That is a turd bill, thrown together during the last 48 hours of the legislative session,” Brigham said. “It does not even repeal medical marijuana; all it does is make the system unworkable, refuses to let providers be paid and limits the amount of patients they can have. Nobody in the state of Montana wants to defend that bill.”
He added, “Montana will be nationally watched by voters from at least 17 other states where medical marijuana programs exist. This bizarre rollback against medical marijuana from the legislators will especially be watched during this 2012 election year. Let’s see if sanity returns to Montana.”
Other changes Democrats made include the following, according to the Ravalli Republic blog:
“Support for President Barack Obama’s decision to withdraw troops from Iraq and encouragement for the speedy drawdown of troops in Afghanistan. Criticism of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision that removed restrictions on corporate spending in political campaigns. Praise for Attorney General Steve Bullock’s efforts to protect Montana’s 1912 ban on independent spending by corporations in state political races, which has been challenged by American Tradition Partnership, and a modified form of a water quality resolution raising questions about hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking,’ which is used to crack rock foundations underground to release natural gas.”