Tag Archives: Medical Marijuana

Wittich Used Chairmanship to Block Amendment he Publicly Supported

Art Wittich, sick and tired of serving the public.

Art Wittich, TEA Party state legislator

TEA Party Republican Art Wittich talks a big game when it comes to helping veterans but when the rubber meets the road, he used his position as Committee Chair to work against them.

The Bozeman Chronicle has the story of Rep. Rae Peppers effort to allow veterans with PTSD to be able to get medical marijuana. Here’s what happened.

Apparently, after discerning that a bill by Rep. Rae Peppers (D, Lame Deer) to add PTSD to the list of allowable conditions treatable with medical cannabis  would fail in committee because two dems would vote against it, Rep. Wittich joined 5 Democrats in voting yes while 9 Republicans and 2 Dems voted no.

After the vote, Wittich said the bill would have passed if it had been amended to specify it was for veterans only.   Two dems said Wittich was right–and that they would support the bill with that amendment.  Except Wittich then used his chairmanship to refuse to allow the bill to be amended.  Even though the sponsor requested the amendment and even though he himself stated he supported the amendment, so the bill failed.  And here’s the kicker – Wittich now gets to place blame on the bill’s demise on his fellow Republicans–because the only way anyone would find out what really happened is to listen to the hearing online.

It looks like he’s trying to be pro-veteran publicly, but the truth shows he’s using a shell game to hide his anti-veteran actions.  This is not the first time Rep. Wittich has used his position to block help for veterans.  Wittich used procedural games to block House Bill 249, which would have helped 9,500 veterans and their family members with health coverage, from having a full and fair debate.

Rep. Rae Pepper’s bill is House Bill 456.  The Bozeman Chronicle reports that Rep. Peppers is hoping to get the bill to a different committee–where it can have a fair hearing instead of a sham one.


The Montana GOP Hypocrite of the Week Award Goes to….

…Steve Zabawa the anti-medical marijuana crusader who appeared in the Billings Gazette after his attempts to get in on a share of a medical marijuana business came to light.

For proposing a ballot initiative to ban the possession, use or cultivation of marijuana in Montana after trying to get in on the profits from the sale of it, Zabawa is this week’s hypocrisy hero.

Let’s here it for Zabawa, dear readers.  It takes a special kind of hypocrite to campaign to eradicate something after you failed to profit from it personally.

But it gets better….or worse. As the Republican blog Montanafesto reported in 2011. Zabawa, is the owner of the Rimrock Auto and Mercedez dealerships in Billings. Rimrock Auto  had been plagued with problems, including federal probes into its business practices, the Billings Outpost reported. In hopes of righting his business he hired the infamous Tony Woolery to manage and run his west end  location to help the struggling business around. Tony Woolery’s wife has terminal bone cancer, so has been a registered medical marijuana card carrier and relies on medical marijuana for pain medication.

But hypocrites and conservatives aren’t bothered by the plight of other people.  That’s what makes them what they are.

So get out there in one of your Mercedes and celebrate your success Mr. Zabawa. As a religious man, you don’t need to you ask yourself “What Would Jesus Do?” because you know the answer. As you cruise the cosmopolitan streets of downtown Billings with your convertible top down, don’t waste a thought on  your business partner’s wife’s terminal illness and suffering.

The Montanafesto blog has also reported on Zabawa’s crusade over the years, including about his organization called “Safe Community, Safe Kids:” read it here.

2013 Legislative Preview

As the 2013 legislature arrives, here are some bills that I’m told are already being drafted by certain legislators. Some I like, some not.  You be the judge.  (For those new to the Cowgirl Blog, referring to the 2011 Nutjob Bills may provide some context).


1.  Joint Resolution of the House and Senate, acknowledging the earth is significantly greater than 6,000 years old.

2.  Joint Resolution, declaring global warming to be bad.

3.  Bill requiring all political funding sources to be disclosed, for all groups and candidates, period.

4.  Bill requiring mandatory counseling prior to divorce, for candidates running in a GOP gubernatorial primary.

5.  Bill forbidding any GOP legislator who votes to take health care from others from benefitting in any way from any aspect of taxpayer funded health care.

6.  State income tax increase for large corporations and Montana’s making more than $250,000.

7.  Bill to remove carbon monoxide detector in the Governor’s office.

8.  Bill to require legislators opposed to medical marijuana to take a lie detector test, about whether they’ve ever smoked it, and how much they smoked.

9.  Bill to require a posting, in Capitol Rotunda, of all federal farm subsidy payments to legislators.  (Did you know they are mostly TEA Partiers?)

10.  Bill to require school children to carry hand-thrown spears and guns with silencers.

11.  Constitutional amendment limiting the number of legislative referenda to three per election with citizen-authorized measures with greatest number of signatures taking priority; and raising the vote threshold needed for the legislature to send a measure directly to the ballot, to supermajority.

12.  Bill requiring security checkpoints at all public bathrooms, to inspect all transgender Montanans.

13.  Bill to establish dog kennel on Capitol grounds, to perpetuate dog-friendly state government.

14.  Constitutional Amendment to require use of branding iron by Governor when vetoing.

15.  Bill to allow fishing with silencers (and semiautomatics).

16.  Bill to allow legislators to be paid in gold dust, pixie stix, or cattle.


Supreme Court Ruling Means Problems for Patients

The Montana Supreme Court today denied a constitutional challenge of the Montana legislature’s harmful changes to Montana’s medical marijuana law, the Missoulian reports.

In September, the Supreme Court had overturned significant parts of a lower court’s ruling which blocked some of the worst parts of the new law from taking effect.

The Supreme Court ruled in September that providers could have no more than three patients and that providers weren’t able to accept any payment to cover the operational costs of providing cannabis to patients.   Before the Supreme Court ruling, the average provider had 16 patients.  It costs approximately $240 to provide one ounce of cannabis to a registered patient in Montana.

Because of this ruling 5,000 of the state’s 8,000 patients will lose their licensed medical marijuana provider. They’ll have 30 days to either find a different provider or begin growing marijuana for themselves–which means they need to get permission from their landlord to do so.

There are several reasons that the new restrictions will be a problem for patients.  Most patients are too sick to grow their own cannabis.  Cultivation is costly and difficult, and landlords may be reluctant to sign affidavits giving renters permission to grow marijuana in the home.

In the closing days of last year’s session, legislators passed a new medical marijuana law with a veto-proof majority.  The new law repealed the popular voter-approved program and forced through a new, stricter law that many say was designed to effectively end medical marijuana in the state.

An initiative referendum called IR-124 appears on the ballot this year which allows voters to either keep the current medical marijuana law or overturn it. A NO vote on IR-124 is a vote to reject the Bat Crap Crazy legislature’s changes. Several candidates this year, including Attorney General Steve Bullock in his campaign for governor, have come out in opposition to the current law and believe it should be overturned.

James Goetz, the attorney for the Montana Cannabis Industry Association, will immediately seek a temporary restraining order and a second preliminary injunction to block the provisions the Supreme Court evaluated – this one under the new standard of review established by the Court in its recent ruling.


Documents: Hill Was in Business with Marijuana Grower

A fascinating item was brought to my attention this week.

It seems that Rick Hill, GOP candidate for Governor, was a business partner with Tom Daubert in some sort of venture.  Daubert is the medical marijuana provider who recently pled guilty to federal charges.

And it gets better. The company that Hill and Daubert founded was called….ready?   “Mature Leisure.”  Bwahahahahaaaaa!

I know this all sounds bizarre, but I’m not making it up.   Posted here are Mature Leisure, Inc.’s articles of incorporation, which were filed with the Secretary of State back in the day, and have now been sent to me by a sharp tipster who gets kudos.

Daubert, by the way, is the subject of the excellent new movie entitled “Code of the West” which details the unnecessary prosecution of Daubert and the heavy-handed law enforcement tactics brought into Montana by the U.S. Justice Department.

Daubert worked hard to lobby for the sick, and has paid for it with a suspended jail sentence thanks to a bunch of federal prosecutors who never got laid in college, weren’t cool enough to smoke pot, and so are permanently angry about it.

The question now  is, why was Rick Hill in business with Daubert?

Mature Leisure.  Hmmm.  That has a certain ring to it, like maybe pot or porn.  Was Rick Hill a pot smoker or pot grower, or perhaps a porn peddler?  Is there some other form of “mature leisure” that he indulges in, or attempted to sell to the masses?  Perhaps a swingers’ club or an S&M lounge?

Or is there a perfectly reasonable and mundane explanation for this business venture, as I would suspect there ought to be?  Hard to imagine they would have registered a marijuana growing company with the State of Montana in the 1990s.

But what about the mere fact that Hill was once associating closely with somebody whom he now believes (you can be sure) to be a criminal of the first order?  What does Hill have to say about that?  For that matter, what do Jeff Essmann and the other anti-cannabis crusaders think?  I’m sure Montanafesto will want to weigh in here.

Finally, perhaps a more salient point for purposes of this important election:  The company appears to have been capitalized with a significant investment, but went belly-up.  Add this to Rick Hill’s portfolio of other questionable enterprises, including losing his money (and that of his investors) in a ponzi scheme.

Legislator Admits Medical Marijuana Bill Was “Defacto Repeal” of Voter Intent in New Ad

Medical marijuana advocates today released a new radio ad in support of IR-124.  The ad urges voters to overturn Senate Bill 423 by ballot initiative at the polls this November.  SB 423 was passed by the Senate in 2011, and effectively repealed and destroyed a voter approved medical pot regime that was put in place in 2004 (also by ballot).

The ad features a statement by Sen.Larry Jent (D-Bozeman), who was caught on tape admitting that the Legislature’s final vote in the 2011 session was actually intended to functionally repeal (rather than fix) the state medical marijuana law adopted by voters.  “And it worked,” Jent concludes.  Oops.

Jent is not up for re-election this year but will be term limited out after the 2015 next session.  He had previously campaigned in the democratic gubernatorial primary but dropped out after it became clear he had no support against the popular Steve Bullock.

You can hear the ad here: No on IR-124 Ad

As you can see from the photo above, it looks like Jent may already be using some kind of illicit substance.

Legislators had claimed during the 2011 session that repealing the citizen initiative was not the intent of SB 423.  So Jent’s comments are very disappointing.   And polling has shown that Montana voters strongly oppose a repeal of the Medical Marijuana Act–62% oppose repeal while only 20% support it. The initiative passed with over 66% of the vote in 2004.

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, overriding Schweitzer’s amendatory veto and demonstrating they had the votes to override an outright veto of the bill as a whole.

Now, Montanans have a chance to decide for themselves whether they like what the legislature did.  A “no” vote on IR-124 is a vote to reject the Bat Crap Crazy legislature’s bill and allow sick people to use pot.  (An easy way to keep track of all of the initiatives and referenda on the ballot this fall is to vote no on everything but I-166, the initiative that says corporations aren’t people.)

Patients for Reform – Not Repeal today began airing the 30-second spot on the Northern Broadcasting Network, during the Aaron Flint show, and the group hopes to continue airing the ad on a daily basis through the election as fundraising allows.

Here’s the script of the ad: “Same Old Story”

Same old story. Politicians ignore the will of the people.The federal government attacks Montana’s sovereignty. And our gun rights. Fed up? Vote against IR-124 this November. It’s simple. Voters passed a ballot measure. The politicians repealed it.Here’s Democrat Larry Jent: This was meant to be a de facto repeal, and it worked. And, uh, that’s why we did it that way.

Repeal? What about respect for the voters?


Politicians said no to you. Now say no to them. No on IR-124.

[Paid for by Patients for Reform, Not Repeal. Sarah Baugh, Treasurer]


Medical Marijuana Activist Tom Daubert Receives Five Years Probation, No Prison Time

Tom Daubert, a drug policy reform activist with a long history of work for humane medical marijuana laws, received five years probation and a $50,000 fine in a decision reached by the US District Court, the Helena IR reports. He was facing a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Daubert started working for patients in 2004, when he headed up the advocacy group Patients and Families United, which fought for the 2004 voter initiative. Daubert’s former business, Montana Cannabis, was raided by federal agents in March 2011.  Despite having worked closely with state and local law enforcement leaders throughout his involvement in marijuana production for state-legal patients, Tom was prevented from submitting a defense under federal law that his company complied with Montana’s medical marijuana law.

Although federal criminal law does not have an exception for the medical use of  marijuana, a memo issued by the Department of Justice in 2009 indicated that federal interference in state medical marijuana laws would be a low priority. But the recent federal crackdown on medical marijuana growers shows a major shift from that federal drug policy starting in early 2011.  Daubert was not charged under state law with any violation of Montana’s Medical Marijuana, only federal law.

Daubert’s former business partner, Richard Flor, died in federal custody. Flor sentenced to serve five years.

Cue the Circus Music

The State Republican Party sent its team of stalwarts to Tampa for the national convention this week. Among the delegates are veritable treasure trove of politicians who have dabbled in — or fully embraced — the wacky views, hypocrisy, and nutty ideas of the 2011 legislature.  If you liked the national scrutiny last session received, you’ll love this crew.

Let’s take a look at who Montana Republicans sent to represent them on the national scene:

Joanne Blyton, birtherFirst, there is Birther Legislator Joanne Blyton of Red Lodge. Rep. Blyton  voted to support Rep. Bob Wagner’s bill in the 2011 session. Yes, that’s the same bill that later made the Montana Legislature famous on CNN.  

Then, there is state Rep. Ken Peterson of Billings.  Peterson, an attorney, made a name for himself by pointing out a loophole that still allows GOP-ers to prosecute people for being gay–even though the courts have struck down a state law saying that being gay will get you prison time.  The penalty on the books is ten years and a $5o,ooo dollar fine.

Peterson says that gays can still be prosecuted for “recruiting.” Here’s how Peterson describes how “the gay recruitment” process goes down, in his own words:

Here young man, your hormones are raging. Let’s go in this bedroom and we’ll engage in some homosexual acts.  You’ll find you’ll like it.

Next there is Tamara “Tammy” Hall of Bozeman.  Hall  is the ultra-angry, ultra right-wing radio commentator in Bozeman who  pens an occasional column for the Bozeman Chronicle and is supposedly a “motivational speaker” for a living.  Hall’s favorite topics include hating on feminists and Governor Schweitzer and loving on Chick-fil-A.

Stephen Zabawa of Billings is the anti-medical marijuana crusader who appeared in the Billings Gazette after his attempts to get in on a share of a medial marijuana business came to light.

Former state legislator Gary Perry of Manhattan will also attend.  This foot soldier in the War on Women sponsored a bill to allow insurance companies to discriminate against women in insurance pricing when he served in the legislature.  He’ll fit right in with this bunch.


Cyndi Baker (left) and Rep. Cleve Loney R-Great Falls (right) at a TEA Party Rally in Great FallsRep. Cleve Loney and TEA Party leader Cyndi Baker of Great Falls are there too.   The couple is pictured here.

Baker was a Great Falls City Commission candidate  who campaigned against school district spending, then turned around and sought a district paycheck.

But it’s worse then that, as the Great Falls Tribune reports, Baker tried to threaten the local government for taxpayer funded payola in the form of a position as “ombudsman” to the local TEA Party anti-government activists.   TEA Party Republican state Rep. Cleve Loney is on the left.


Single-Issue Crusader Wants Free of Your Freedoms

A Mormon seminary teacher and anti-cannabis crusader David Lewis says he just wants to live in a place where he can be free of your freedoms.  He’s the Republican candidate for Rep. Margie MacDonald’s (D) house seat in Billings, HD 54.

His philosophy is simple, if not constitutional.  Lewis shared his views with the independent news magazine In These Times:

“while others are entitled to their freedoms, those who do not wish to be exposed to the freedoms of others are entitled to be free of those freedoms.”

To explain his vision, Lewis told a story about his seminary class:

Lewis asked his students at the Mormon seminary what laws they would pass if they were starting a city. One young lady said that she would outlaw cursing, says Lewis. “And a young man kind of immediately jumped on that one with both feet and said, ‘Ah, that’s against the right of free speech.’ “

But the champion of Lewis’ tale is the student who disregards the constitution in favor of Mormon doctrine:

“The point is, at the end of the class, one young lady piped up … ‘I don’t know if it’s legal or not to outlaw cursing,’ she said. ‘But I’d want to live there.’ “

So would Lewis it seems.   While voters are focused on jobs and the economy, Lewis’ sole focus is a single issue: the evils of medical marijuana.  It’s the only issue he’s spoken about at the Billings City Council, where he was the most vocal proponent of a ban on medical marijuana storefronts.

Lewis best known as the treasurer of “Safe Communities Safe Kids,” the recently-formed Billings group that decided the only aspect of safety it need focus on was medical marijuana, which Lewis describes as a “rope-a-dope” conspiracy to hook kids on drugs.

Speaking before the Billings City Council, Lewis said Montana is turning into “Gomorrah.” He claimed that:

“at least three medical marijuana facilities sprouting up around ‘nearly every single institution of elementary learning’ in Billings.”

Lewis says this was “intentional.”

Creating a society where he can be free from your freedoms is theme Lewis has drawn on before.  He was a vociferous participant in the comments section of a KULR-8 story on the failed signature gathering effort Lewis lead to overturn the voter-passed medical marijuana ballot initiative.  Late into the night, Lewis typed that he doesn’t want to keep “those who want ‘Pot’ in their lives from having it.” He just wants to live “someplace where they don’t want to live because of the Laws against it,” which makes perfect sense.  Here’s the screenshot.  

In another comment on the same story, he calls on others to join his crusade and “take your place as the Creators of a Nation.”  Screenshot here.  I hope he’s not talking about seceding already.  Typically, GOP-ers find it wise to wait until they are elected to start waving that flag.


New Billboard Campaign on Medical Marijuana Initiative

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.”