The voters of Montana chose by a margin of 62% to 38% in favor of the law. At the time, the language and the intent of the law seemed prudent to Montana voters. There were some with fears about the road that Montana was about to embark upon, but over the next five years, those fears seemed to be unfounded. For the most part, the law worked as intended, and marijuana production and usage was for the most part supporting those that needed the medication.
But in 2009, things began to change. According to State Rep. Jon Sesso, D-Butte as quoted in the Billings Gazette, there were 1,500 people who had medical marijuana cards in mid-2009. Now, less than two years later, there are around 30,000 cards issued. The number of persons claiming to need medical marijuana has jumped twenty-fold in twenty months. That averages out to around 1,500 new cards being issued every month. And the numbers of growers have been expanding at a rapid rate as well. One could perhaps conclude that suddenly there is a huge increase in serious disease requiring medical marijuana, but that just doesn’t seem to be the case. How is it that every month, there are the same number of new users as during the entire first 5 years of the program? Could there be another reason for the sudden surge and issuance of medical marijuana cards?
According to KPAX TV in Missoula, there are more medical marijuana users in our state now than there are residents of Helena. Upwards of 30% of card-holders are under the age of 30. This is the fastest growing group of users. And coincidentally, the largest numbers of users are in Missoula and Gallatin counties, 4,500 and 3,500 respectively, where the University of Montana and Montana State University are located. Could it be that our universities are inducing serious terminal diseases on the college students of our state? If usage is assumed to be legitimate, then we have a serious health crisis on our college campuses.
Recently, federal agents issued 30 search warrants in 13 Montana cities related to medical marijuana. While it appears that many citizens were unaware that under federal law, marijuana possession is still illegal, growers and users are under no such illusion. The exact charges and specific crimes have not yet been disclosed by the federal government and no arrests have been made, but incriminating facts were disclosed. The raids were the culmination of 18 months of investigation by several federal agencies, and their probable cause extended far beyond what the intent of Montana’s medical marijuana law’s original intent encompassed. Several other states have similar medical marijuana exceptions, yet no raids have occurred in those states.
During the raids, $3.6 million in cash from associated bank accounts was seized. That’s about $125 per medical card holder, or $2500 per 2009 card holder. That’s a lot of profit, and the raids only included a fraction of the grow and distribute operations in the state. How did medical marijuana for 1500 patients turn into a multi-million dollar industry in such a short time?
The original law, while well intentioned, has many loopholes, vague language, no penalties for fraud, and no checks and balances.
Touring clinics from out of state come through and patients can obtain a ‘doctors signature’ for a nominal fee. Signed forms are mailed to Helena and cards are issued. Anybody can get a card, and nobody is denied.
Caregivers and growers recruit and solicit patients. The business has become a