State Medical Marijuana Law Needs Fixing
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State Medical Marijuana Law Needs Fixing
Posted by CN Staff on March 22, 2011 at 08:19:41 PT
Gazette Opinion
Source: Billings Gazette
Billings -- Montana’s 6-year-old medical marijuana law is working out worse than most Montanans expected, according to a Gazette State Poll conducted earlier this month.With 53 percent saying the results of the law are worse than expected, in another question 52 percent said they would support repealing it and on a third question 83 percent would support stricter regulation.
But given a choice in one question, this is how public opinion divided:11 percent would “keep Montana’s medical marijuana law intact.”57 percent would “enact stricter regulations and licensing requirement.”31 percent would “repeal Montana’s medical marijuana law.”1 percent weren’t sure.Those poll findings suggest that lawmakers are following the wishes of a majority of their constituents when they work to control medical marijuana without killing the law that voters approved in 2004.Among more than a dozen bills introduced dealing with medical marijuana issues are measures that would regulate and others that would repeal. Rep. Diane Sands, D-Missoula, who chaired the interim legislative committee that studied medical marijuana issues at length, is sponsoring HB68 to revise the law and create regulatory structure for the industry. Rep. Keith Regier, R-Kalispell, is sponsoring HB175 to submit a repeal to Montana voters. Rep. Tom Berry, R-Roundup, and Sen. Dave Lewis, R-Helena, have introduced HB429 and SB154, respectively, both of which would revise the law in various ways. Among many other things, Berry’s bill would require both a physician’s recommendation and a court order to allow legal use of marijuana. Lewis seeks to regulate the business of growers supplying marijuana to patients. HB161, sponsored by House Speaker Mike Milburn, R-Cascade, would repeal the law. Milburn’s bill passed the House, but has failed to get majority support in the Senate Judiciary Committee.The Legislature should not discard the votes of Montanans who enacted the medical marijuana law. However, the law clearly has loopholes that must be corrected:Individuals on probation or parole should not have medical marijuana cards or be legal “caregivers” providing marijuana to patients.The use of medical marijuana for “chronic pain” has been abused, causing the number of legal card holders to skyrocket from 3,921 in September 2009 to 28,379 in February 2011. The use of marijuana as a pain remedy requires additional restrictions.Cities and counties need clear authority to regulate medical marijuana businesses through zoning and local ordinances.The Montana Clean Indoor Air Act should apply to smoking medical marijuana as it applies to smoking tobacco.The law’s provision that employers need not allow medical marijuana on the job should be clarified.Medical marijuana users shouldn’t be allowed to smoke their drug in public places or on public transportation.Better regulation of medical marijuana will please neither the folks who want to outlaw it nor those who want to profit from it. But the Legislature should strive to carry out the will of voters to allow seriously ill or dying individuals, upon medical advice, to choose to use a limited amount of marijuana to ease their symptoms in the privacy of their home.Source: Billings Gazette, The (MT)Published:  March 22, 2011Copyright: 2011 The Billings GazetteContact: speakup billingsgazette.comWebsite: Medical Marijuana Archives 
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Comment #2 posted by paul armentano on March 22, 2011 at 11:21:23 PT
Mom jailed for marijuana prompts wide support Print this page   Return to Story Story on mom jailed for marijuana prompts wide support by: GINNIE GRAHAM World Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
3/22/2011 9:22:03 AMAn Oklahoma inmate profiled in a Tulsa World story examining the state's high female incarceration rate has prompted a groundswell of support ranging from attorney services to an online petition circulating across the globe. Patricia M. Spottedcrow of Kingfisher was featured in a Tulsa World article on Feb. 20 and published in media across the state through the nonprofit journalism group Oklahoma Watch. The 25-year-old received a 12-year prison sentence in October after selling a total of $31 in marijuana to a police informant in December 2009 and January 2010. Her mother, Delita Starr, was also charged. In blind guilty pleas before a judge, Spottedcrow received prison time while her mother received a 30-year suspended sentence. The judge said Spottedcrow's four young children being in the home at the time of the drug buys prompted the higher sentences. Neither she nor her mother had prior criminal convictions. The judge said in a previous interview that first-time offenders are not usually sent to prison. Instead, other alternatives including treatment, are typically found. Oklahoma City attorney Josh Welch read the story and said he decided to represent her without charge. "I'm familiar with that county and had other cases there and what happened is so egregious and wrong," Welch said. Spottedcrow must serve at least 50 percent of her sentence before being eligible for parole, Welch said. When Spottedcrow was taken from court to the jail to start her prison sentence, some marijuana was found in her jacket pocket. She received a two-year concurrent sentence for drug possession. A state Department of Corrections presentencing report stated Spottedcrow was highly likely to reoffend and did not seem to take the charges seriously. "Let's say everything said about this woman is true. ... It's barbaric and prehistoric to have a 12-year sentence for that and have to serve 50 percent," Welch said. "It's illogical." Welch said Oklahoma law allows the judge in pleas such as this to retain jurisdiction for up to one year. The associate judge who sentenced Spottedcrow has retired after more than two decades on the bench. "She has a right to a sentence review one year from the date of the sentence, and the judge has the authority and discretion to suspend or modify the sentence," he said. "We hope for some realistic expectation and a rational approach." At least three Facebook pages, an online petition and Twitter account have been established to support Spottedcrow and spread her story. "This is not a one-issue type of case," Welch said. "There are a lot of different groups identifying with what is wrong with this sentence. From a lawyer's perspective, it's an unjust sentence. Other groups look at it from issues of women in prison, marijuana laws, families and children being split apart or simply just a crazy, draconian sentence." Eric Sterling, president of the Maryland-based nonprofit Criminal Justice Policy Foundation, had inquired about helping her find counsel and has spoken with Welch. "The injustice of her case is an extreme instance of what are common miscarriages of justice," Sterling stated in an e-mail. "This sentence strikes me as so disproportionately long as to smack of barbarism. This is not the sentence that a civilized society would impose for such conduct. This is not a crime so heinous and unusual that a long sentence is warranted." Sterling said he has concerns about poor people and minorities not receiving fair treatment in courts and among law enforcement. Spottedcrow is an American Indian who was unemployed at the time of her arrest. "I am hopeful that reasonable criminal justice personnel will consider that the time that she has already spent in prison has adequately conveyed the lesson that selling marijuana can utterly disrupt her life and endanger her children, and will agree to a sentence that will permit her immediate release," Sterling stated. California resident Jeff J. Jonaitis started a petition on to ask Gov. Mary Fallin to commute the sentence to "a more reasonable and humane punishment." Jonaitis, who has family members living in Oklahoma, said he believes a more appropriate sentence would have been community service and probation. "A fire started inside me and it's still burning," he stated in an e-mail. "I have not slept much since reading her story. I believe a punishment should fit the crime and not be a crime in itself. ... I hope her children don't go 10 years without their mother." Starr, who is taking care of Spottedcrow's four children, was surprised at the public reaction. "I don't have a computer, but at least it's got people talking," Starr said. "It's all over now and everybody knows. Everyone seems to be talking about it, but I've seen no change yet." After the story was published, Starr said officials from the county's Republican and Democrat parties visited her. "They said she was treated unfairly and wanted to find some way to investigate it," Starr said. "People are real concerned about it." Starr works at a gas station and is working to pay off about $8,300 in court fines and fees. "I have hope," Starr said. "We've already made changes. We go to church every day and pray to God. We are drug-free here. I don't allow any of that around, no matter what. I hope Tricia will come home, get a job and work to support her kids." 
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Comment #1 posted by runruff on March 22, 2011 at 10:22:31 PT
"83 percent would support stricter regulation"
This here is a duh, moment!There has never been stricter regulation than under Bush, Clinton, Bush!Stricter regulation does not diminish interest or use, It raises the price, that is all.Another "duh" moment brought to you by 72 years of brainwashing!
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