A billboard that reads “Welcome to Yellowstone County, Where the Will of the People Doesn’t Count” us up on Montana Avenue in Billings. The billboard encourages Montanans to vote “NO” on IR-124.
Initiative Referendum 124 (IR-124) is the voter initiative that will appear on this year’s ballot. It allows voters keep or reject the new medical marijuana law passed by the infamous 2011 “Bat Crap Crazy” Montana legislature. (An initiative referendum is the process for citizens to put bills passed by the legislature on the ballot for everyone to vote on.) The new law, Senate Bill 423, sponsored by Billings Republican Jeff Essmann, repealed the citizen initiative voters passed in 2004 in favor of medical marijuana. A “YES” vote is to keep the Jeff Essmann law, a “NO” vote is to reject it. (An easy way to remember how to vote on the ballet items this year is to vote “NO” on everything except the one about Citizens United.)
During the 2011 session, the Governor called SB 423 “unconstitutional on its face,” and issued an amendatory veto to fix the parts he considered legally defective. The legislature rejected his changes.
Essmann had thought to run for Governor on the Republican ticket, but he ended up quickly dropping out of the race. Everywhere he went, the state Senator from Billings was hounded by by large numbers of angry protestors, upset with Essmann over the his notorious medical marijuana stance. It got so bad that when the Republican announced his campaign for Governor, Essmann did it the only way he could find to avoid the angry crowds: on a conference call.
So voters got together and collected the signatures to get IR-124 on the ballot to let Montanans have the last word–the chance to vote “YES” or “NO” on whether Jeff Essmann’s medical marijuana bill should stand.
The billboard was put up by the Montana Cannabis Industry Association, best known for its legal challenge to the current medical marijuana law:
“Through their repeal efforts, the legislature ignored the will of the people and claimed to be abiding by it all at the same time,” says Chris Lindsey, President of the MTCIA. “First, they rushed to repeal the original law and leave patients with nothing. When that failed, the same group of people came up with their current back-door effort at repeal – by making participation in the state program as painful and risky as possible. Voters need to regain control of this issue, repeal the current terrible law and demand a realistic set of regulations. No one wants to go back to the way things were, but what we have now is worse for patients.”