Jeff Essmann Doesn’t Trust Montana Voters on I-182 or Voting

By Ross Peter Nelson and Cowboy

After Jeff Essmann’s Senate Bill 423 sabotaged the state’s medical marijuana (MMJ) law in 2011, Montanans responded by overwhelmingly passing I-182 last November. In addition to repudiating his near-shutdown of the industry, I’m sure voters hoped he would learn from his mistakes and allow a sensible plan for licensing and testing to be implemented. Alas, that appears not to be the case.

Jeff Essmann, yet again, has decided that Montana voters do not know best:

  1. In 2011 when he sabotaged the MMJ law.
  2. Earlier this year, he and Austin Knudsen, sabotaged a fiscally responsible plan to ensure every registered voter have a chance to vote in the special election when they undermined SB 305, the mail ballot bill. #TheSagaofSB305
  3. Now it’s 2017 and Essmann is trying to sabotage MMJ again.

The new MMJ plan, which was before the legislature in the form of SB 333 has been subverted once again. The House Taxation Committee, chaired by none other than Mr. Essmann, has attached 20 different amendments to the bill. Sponsor Mary Caferro notes that the amendments make the licensing plan less safe, less functional, and less transparent.

One of the more punitive measures is a quarterly fee on MMJ dispensaries. Initially, SB 333 called for a tax on sales. However, as amended, each provider would now pay $100/year for every MMJ card-holder they serviced. This would be a huge financial burden on providers, since if a card-holder only purchased small amounts of marijuana, the dispensary would end up paying more in fees than they received in income.

For example, at the original 4% tax rate, a provider with a customer who purchased $80 worth of marijuana would pay $3.20 in taxes. Under Essmann’s plan, the dispensary would be forced to pay $100 in fees.

This provision might cause dispensaries to discourage patients looking for short-term relief of symptoms. This impacts people with the some of the greatest needs: hospice patients who only have relatively short life expectancy.

In addition to penalizing people who are trying to work within the system, the amendments allows small-scale providers to evade the product testing requirements. Dispensaries that skipped the testing would have less overhead and presumably, lower prices. That would incentivize people to seek out the exempt providers and resell their products on the black market.

Montana’s 13,000 MMJ patients and the industry that supports them were behind the original version of SB 333. Now, they’re looking at a version of a bill that may reprise the chaos of 2011. Fortunately, the Montana Senate passed a version of the bill without the Essmann amendments, and the bill is now in conference committee to work out a compromise.

Put pressure on your representatives to ensure that medical marijuana in this state is handled safely and fairly.

Call 406-444-4800 and tell them your legislator that you want proper regulation and the original version of SB 333, not punitive measures from a sore loser.

Also, call and tell Austin Knudsen to send the new version of the mail ballot bill, HB 83, to the floor for a vote and quit being a partisan hack being controlled from Washington DC.


Ross Peter Nelson is a playwright whose avocations include photography, hiking, and politics. Bio:


9 Comments on "Jeff Essmann Doesn’t Trust Montana Voters on I-182 or Voting"

  1. Every once in awhile, Term Limits just makes sense.

  2. Essmann is the ultimate repuglican asshole and so very unfortunate, he is my piss poor example of a legislator. I will enjoy the day when he leaves the legislature for good. And as you read this Jeffie, FORGET ABOUT RUNNING FOR ANOTHER OFFICE-Billings does not need you as we are trying to be a bit more progressive in our community. GO BACK TO YOUR LAUNDRY BUSINESS AND INHALE MORE CHEMICALS!

  3. Essmann and Knudsen are the biggest hypocrites I have ever seen. The Republicans need to ditch Essmann, once and for all. What is it about voting– for medical marijuana or in a special mail ballot election–that angers Essmann so badly? What the hell is the matter with these people?

  4. Jeff Essman is against MedMari simply because of the amount of $$$ providers make. Essman said that to me in a conversation in 2014. He has been threatened by one of his constituents, Steve Zabawowowow, owner of Rimrock Auto, to destroy every drug bill coming through the legislature. Stevie doesn’t like drugs and since he finances Essman’s campaign, Jeffy is the lapdog. Zabowowoo told Essman if he ever allowed a drug bill to get through the legislature he would personally recruit and finance a campaign against term limits. I am pretty sure this is common knowledge throughout the state.

    Essman is one of the “fiscal conservative” hypocrites that are overflowing in the Montana legislature as well as in Congress.

    Soon Essman will be term limited just not soon enough.

  5. Maybe Essman and Zabawowowow should read “Chasing the Scream” the beginning and the end on the war on drugs, by Johann Hari. Maybe if they read that, they might get a clue on the reality of Medical Marijuana, and then again, maybe not.

    • I wish they would read a few other things as well, but they live in their own echo chamber and raw party power is much more important to them than common sense and the will of the people. Fiscal conservatism and personal responsibility, supposed “Republican virtues”, mean nothing to these people compared to power. I just wish Montanans would start paying more attention and get rid of fools like these.

  6. We need to remind our legislators that they work for US. And for those people who vote for them, you might remember that the point of government is not to be “fiscally responsible” but to be morally responsible for making the lives of their constituents a bit easier. You know, that whole “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” thing, to “promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty”.

  7. Old Line Democrat | April 19, 2017 6:13 AM at 6:13 AM |

    MT does have term limits and they have caused us to have a very uninformed legislature especially regarding how government and the budget actually work.
    Additionally now we have seat swapping between the houses so they are not effective. Term limits were a boondoggle started when Conrad Burns was running the first time. Funny how he didn’t quit after two terms as he promised. We got stuck with a bad law that puts lobbyists and dark money in charge.
    Luckily Eastman is quitting to run for Mayor of Billings. At least if he wins there he will only be inflicting himself on those residents and not the rest of us.

  8. Wow, this is some terrible writing! Does anybody read this stuff before they post it to the world?

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