Leaders from communities across Montana are coming together in support of Montana’s new medical marijuana initiative, I-182. Montana Citizens for I-182 announced that 116 “Champions for I-182” have endorsed the measure that will appear on the November ballot.
“Republicans and Democrats, doctors and patients, veterans, community leaders from across Montana are coming together to support I-182,” said Montana Citizens for I-182 Treasurer Jeff Krauss. “We are here today to announce our support for this important initiative, to stand with the 11,850 patients who no longer have access to their medicine, and call on all Montanans to vote ‘Yes’ on I-182.”
Krauss was joined by five other Champions for today’s announcement, including former Montana Speaker of the House, John Vincent.
“As a former state legislative leader, I am troubled by what the Montana State Legislature did in 2011,” said Vincent. “It was designed to crash the system, and it worked. Now thousands of our fellow Montanans are suffering because they no longer have access to the medicine that eases their pain and aids in their healing. I know. My wife is one of them.”
Vincent’s wife suffers from multiple sclerosis and none of the medications prescribed to her to treat severe leg spasms have worked. She had recommendations from two neurologists to use medical marijuana and was preparing to file paperwork to register as a medical marijuana patient, but never submitted it due to the new restrictions going into effect. State Representative Ellie Hill echoed Vincent’s sentiments on SB 423.
“All 56 Montana counties voted to have access to medical marijuana – every single one, and that’s a big deal,” said Hill. “In 2011, the Legislature, spearheaded by a few fringe leaders, gutted the program and went against the will of the people by passing SB 423. It was repeal in disguise.”
In 2004, 62 percent of Montana voters passed an initiative to create a medical marijuana program. But the Montana Legislature passed SB 423 in 2011, replacing the original initiative with a new law that imposed a three-patient limit on providers, severely restricting patients’ access to medical marijuana.
“We can fix the damage done by SB 423 by passing I-182. We need a responsible, accountable law that allows access to medical marijuana for those battling cancer or with other debilitating illnesses,” said Hill.
Since SB 423 went into effect on August 30, 93percent of Montana’s medical marijuana patients now have no medical marijuana provider.
“The new restrictions make criminals out of suffering patients,” said Barb Trego, a former law enforcement official with the Lewis and Clark County Sheriff’s office. “That’s not right and it actually undermines the role law enforcement plays to keep our communities safe. Our police and sheriff departments should be focused on meth labs and violent criminals, not medical marijuana patients.”
I-182 restores access for medical marijuana patients by eliminating the three-patient limit. The initiative also requires providers to obtain licenses and receive unannounced annual inspections. It allows for product testing to ensure safety and accurate dosages. Additionally, I-182 grants access to veterans and other patients diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“Veterans coming home with PTSD are typically prescribed several medications, including antidepressants and opioids, which can be dangerous and actually increase the rate of suicide,” said Paul Littlelight, a US Army veteran and member of the Crow Tribe. “Our veterans are struggling with PTSD and suicide. Our nation is suffering from a prescription pain pill epidemic that is killing around 20,000 Americans each year. Medical marijuana offers a safe alternative that can literally save lives.”
Katie Mazurek, a 33-year-old Bozeman attorney and mother of two has firsthand experience with the benefits of medical marijuana over opioids.
“Before my diagnosis, I would never have understood the importance and necessity of medical marijuana,” said Mazurek. “I ignorantly shared a lot of the biases that were based in fear and misdirection that we hear today. Now, I know medical marijuana is a life preserver. It is far safer than my prescription pain medications, is far more effective and it allows me to participate as a productive mother and business owner.”
Mazurek was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in February, just days after opening her family law practice.
“Without reasonable access to medical marijuana, I am suffering deeply. I urge voters to support people like me in the fight of their lives by voting ‘Yes’ on I-182.”
Montana Citizens for I-182 is inviting all Montanans to join the Champions for I-182 in endorsing the ballot measure.
For the full list of Champions, go to www.yeson182.org/champions