Hands tied for city, county on Medical Marijuana issue

07_folgersJINGLE WINNERS  — Landon Lee, third from the left, Ethan Thompson, far left, Daniel Coburn and Kara DioGuardi are the winners of the new Folgers coffee jingle. They were flown to New York City where they competed in a competition that lasted about two hours, including short videos about each of the five finalists, a live performance of each jingle. Folgers will likely use their jingle in a future commercial, but as of press time further details were unavailable. The group of four were picked up at the airport in a limo and stayed in the Double Tree Suites which overlooked Times Square. They were introduced to the original writer and singer of the Folgers jingle and many executives from Folgers and their advertising company. Lee is the son of Roland and Karen Lee of Conrad. Photo Courtesy of Karen Lee. Editor's Note: Although the picture is not related to the story, The I-O thought it was important to recognize the feat these college students have accomplished.




By Adam Jerome, I-O Reporter

On June 7, the County Commissioners held an informational session at the court house regarding the commercial health and public safety issues of the Medical Marijuana industry on the residents of Pondera County.

The Medical Marijuana law (I-148) passed by voter initiative in 2004 and has become an increasingly controversial topic statewide.

Carl Suta of the Pondera County Sheriff Department commented on the issue, “This law is very vague and we have had some serious problems because of that.”

He goes on, “Montana has by far the vaguest Medical Marijuana law of all the Medical Marijuana states.”

Due to the growing concerns and daily calls to the city and county, the commissioners decided to hold the impromptu discussion.

Conrad Mayor, John Shevlin was on hand to discuss the city’s position as was Sandy Broesder on the side of the county.

After brief introductions Mayor Shevlin explained the city’s issues.  At the present time the city is taking a wait and see approach.

There are numerous community members that are concerned about Medical Marijuana caregivers and residential zoning.

As it stands now these caregivers can run their business outside of their homes tax free.  The city is aware of the issue but at the present time cannot make a definitive statement.

The City of Conrad is presently in the middle of their growth policy and it is not possible to make permanent zoning decisions in the midst of the policy.

Regarding the County, they unlike the city are bound by state law and cannot make any zoning decisions that go against the law or that may be seen as discriminatory to any singular business in any way.

To sum up, both institutions have their hands tied at the present moment.

Suta was on hand and gave an informational PowerPoint presentation on Medical Marijuana and the effects statewide.

He had some very interesting statistics that displayed some of the problems created for Montana law enforcement.

Law enforcement does not have access to a list of card holders.  They can only verify that a singular person is permitted to use Medical Marijuana.  This also ties their hands when it comes to drug investigations.

In Pondera County there are 39 registered card holders and 16 caregivers.  But statewide there are over 10,000 registered patients.  One possible reason for the large numbers statewide is due to the Federal stance.

In 2008, the D.E.A. stated that they will not investigate or prosecute Medical Marijuana cases in Montana.  That very year, the state saw a significant increase in registered patients.

In 2007, 229 new patients were registered; by 2008 that number grew to 833 and continued to climb in 2009 when over 6,032 new patients were introduced to the program.

While there is little argument about the benefits of medical marijuana regarding health issues such as cancer, HIV and AIDs, these groups make up only a small percentage of registered patients.

The largest percentage of card holders are in the chronic pain category, making up just over 90 percent of Montana patients.  The belief is that abuse of law is coming from this category.

Considering the abuses and the vagueness of the law some people wonder why the legislature cannot amend it to eliminate some of the abuses.  Once again legislature’s hands are tied as well.  Because the law was passed as a voter initiative, it makes it nearly impossible to amend at the congressional level.

One consideration that is gaining steam is a second voter initiative to repeal the 2004 Medical Marijuana law.  This group is traveling around the state to get the necessary signatures to place the issue on the ballot.

While this stance is a valid response there may still be yet another option.

Instead of rescinding the law and eliminating the use of Medical Marijuana for the people who actually benefit, people on both sides of the issue can come to the table and work to eradicate the abuses in the present system.

On Tuesday night, Pondera County took the first step in trying to fix the medical marijuana problem, by having an open discussion and informational session.