Posted: Oct 10, 2012 3:49 PM by Marnee Banks - MTN News
HELENA - Montana voters have five ballot issues to consider this election and oftentimes the language can be confusing. Over the next few weeks State Political Reporter Marnee Banks will explain what it means to vote for and against each one.
The first issue being looked at is IR-124, which deals with medical marijuana in the Treasure State.
"I have degenerative disc disease. I have been on narcotics for over 20 years," medical marijuana card holder Barb Trego said. "I have a herd of goats, dairy goats, I had started selling off everything, sold the farm, sold everything."
Trego knows what it's like to be in pain. After being forced to take prescription drugs just to keep functioning, they started causing serious side effects and she was left with no other option but to stop taking the pills. Once she stopped, the pain increased, her back swelled and she could barely walk.
Trego realized she'd have to sell of her herd, something that was a very emotional experience.
"Oh I cried, and cried, and cried. I sold down to where I had about 25 or 30," she said.
But then in 2004 Montana voters made medical marijuana legal, and in 2009 she began using it to treat her symptoms.
"I'm hunting, and I'm fishing, and I'm doing things in my life that I like doing again," Trego explained.
That includes rebuilding her goat herd, and Trego says she would like to see the Legislature draft a workable solution for patients, providers and the public.
She says the current law that's in place, Senate Bill 423, is as close to repealing medical marijuana as lawmakers could get.
During the 2011 session, Republican lawmakers cracked down on the medical marijuana industry. Senator Jeff Essmann (R-Billings) says that's because there were major abuses.
"Within my district we had a medical marijuana shop open up one block away from a middle school housing seventh and eighth graders. As I said before, that was when they really kicked over the can of gasoline in the floor of the garage and struck the match," Essmann told us.
Before the Legislature passed Senate Bill 423, there were more than 31,000 medical marijuana cardholders in Montana, now theat number has fallen to just about 9,000.
"It has led to the closure of store front in the communities that wanted to close them. It's lead to tighter regulation in terms of issuance of cards," Essmann said.
He believes the current regulations keep communities safe. But for Trego, it's not a good solution. She says now providers cannot be paid for marijuana, which makes it incredibly hard for her to get her medicine.
Voters have a choice to make in November, and will decide to vote for or against the current medical marijuana regulations.
A vote for IR-124 will repeal the 2004 law and enact the new program, Senate Bill 423. But a vote against IR-124 restores the old law and throws out the Legislature's crack down.