Jeff Essmann, a state senator from Billings, thought he was going to catapult himself into state-wide office by authoring a law that deprives medical cannabis for very sick people who need it, by making it onerous for them to get it. The Montanafesto Blog has a great analysis of the ruling which I encourage you all to read.
Instead, a Montana Judge has now thrown out virtually the entire law.
The law required anyone seeking to use cannabis for medical reasons, and anyone seeking to help such patients, to surrender numerous basic constitutional rights, like the right to be free from illegal search and seizure and the right to privacy. It required a person who grows a medical plant, on a non-profit basis, for a seriously ill patient, to be finger printed, and to submit to unlimited, unwarranted search and seizure by police. Even a husband of a terminally ill cancer patient, trying to grow a plant in the couple’s basement, would be subjected to such treatment. It singled out one job-creating industry to prohibit it from making a profit, and it interfered with the doctor patient relationship – a favorite Republican hobby.
Many times during the legislative session, both Democrats and Republicans tried hinting to Essmann during debates on this pathetic bill that there were ways that it could be tweaked so as to come up with a meaningful law that would protect everyone’s interests. Even several Republicans seemed uncomfortable with what Essmann was doing, even if they went through pains to avoid saying so directly. Art Wittich, Tea Partier from Bozeman, stood up on the floor of the Senate and tearfully described people he knows that are helped by pot. And he discussed his own cancer, too, and all but admitted that he’d used medical cannabis when he was suffering from cancer. (We don’t have any factual knowledge of whether he’s ever used cannabis, but it was quite obvious to me, and to many other observers, that he seemed to be fighting back an urge to admit that he, too, had used it medically.)
This is not the first time that a major Republican figure has gone too far and forgotten that Montana is a state that values liberty and privacy. Denny Rehberg, as we all know, voted for every Montanan to carry a Federal ID card, even if the Billings Gazette is doing everything it can to avoid reporting this fact.
The hearing on the constitutionality of this law was a circus. At one point, an attorney for the Montana Department of Justice said he’d determined that crime had increased in Montana communities as a result of medical cannabis. When asked on cross examination about how he knew this, he said he’d “done a survey monkey.”
But Essman’s folly was never about doing what was right for the state. He was approached numerous times by the Governor and the Democrats with amendments to soften the bill, and the Governor also vetoed the first iteration of it. But Essman would have none of it.
No, this was about doing what was right for his own political career, acting like a holy crusader and making a medical cannabis law so onerous that that patients will no longer want to bother with he hassle of procuring cannabis at all. Then he could run back to the religious holy rollers who are his base of support, and tell them that he’d cleaned up the state.
And now a Judge has shoved the entire medical cannabis law up Essmann’s fat ass, where it belongs. And Essmann’s political career is not looking so good.