Article by Steve Elliott of Toke of the Town
On an almost entirely party-line vote with Republicans in favor, the Montana House voted again on Saturday to repeal the state's medical marijuana law, passed by voters in 2004, after a House panel supposedly looked at the repeal measure's fiscal impacts.
House Bill 161, sponsored by Speaker Mike Milburn (R-Cascade), now faces a final house vote, probably on Monday, before heading to the Montana Senate, reports Charles S. Johnson at the Missoulian.
The House once again voted 63-37 to pass HB 161, with all 63 votes in favor coming from Republicans. All 32 House Democrats and five Republicans voted against repeal.
The House already voted on February 10 by the same tally to approve HB 161, but the bill was then sent to the House Appropriations Committee to "review its financial impact." The panel sent the bill back to the House for another vote, which is what occurred Saturday.
?Saturday's debate was brief, with only Milburn and medical marijuana defender Rep. Diane Sands (D-Missoula) speaking. Both confined their remarks to a few sentences.
Milburn said the medical marijuana repeal bill has "drawn interest" from around the nation and all over the world.
In a bizarre case of surreal political bedfellows, Milburn claimed he'd been interviewed by a Swedish radio host who claimed "Sweden is now advocating a drug-free society."
In a later interview, Milburn claimed the radio host, supposedly a "special adviser" to something called the "World Federation Against Drugs," told him it would be "political suicide" in Sweden if anyone there ran for office supporting legalization of medical marijuana.
Enjoy the spectacle, folks; it's not every you hear a GOP legislator extolling the greatness of how they do things in socialist Sweden. Speaker Milburn, not exactly an intellectual, apparently wasn't bright enough to see the irony.
Rep. Sands, on the other hand, told the House that almost two-thirds of Montana voters approved the initiative in 2004 to legalize medical marijuana (it was a 62 percent to 38 percent win).
"We all know that we have failed in our responsibilities as a Legislature to put appropriate sideboards and regulations around this industry," Sands said. She is sponsoring a bill, on behalf of an interim legislative committee, to put in a state licensing and regulatory system for medical marijuana, rather than repealing the law altogether as advocated by Republicans.
Pot-hater Milburn said he's unsure of the bill's chances in the Senate.
Republicans who voted against repeal -- and therefore, for medical marijuana -- were Reps. Steve Gibson of Helena, Austin Knudsen of Culbertson, Mike Miller of Helmville, Jerry O'Neil of Columbia Falls and Sterling Small of Busby. They deserve your support for going against their party to stand up for medicinal cannabis patients.