About 24 hours ago, senators were casting their vote for regulation’s last hope. “I’ve heard it said here tonight that we shouldn’t play games, well I would like to know what happened yesterday if that wasn’t games,” says Senator Taylor Brown (R – Senate District 22.) Republicans voiced disappointment with their Democrat counter-parts after Senator Essmann’s Senate Bill 423 passed it’s second reading 37 to 13 Wednesday morning, but since the Republicans wouldn’t “bargain” with the Democrats, the Democrats did not give them the two-thirds vote they needed to advance the regulation measure.
In what can only be described as one of the most heated political spats this session, lawmakers sounded off on the repeal of medical marijuana.
“You go up to your caucus and talk about the 28 to 22 and give yourselves high-fives I understand that… and you can continue to do it to us but sometimes on these important issues we do need to talk and it’s not happening…Repeal isn’t the way to go. Senator Essmann, you do have a good bill but you could have talked to us and you won’t,” says Senator Jim Keane (D – Senate District 38.)
“How dare you say that for people that have MS, Lou Gehrig’s disease and a whole host of other maladies that have chosen not to be addicted to narcotics,” says Senator David Wanzenried (D – Senate District 49.)
With the clock ticking and a murky future ahead in the House for the Senate’s regulation measure, some senators support repeal because they say they have no other choice. “I can’t accept status quo when 30,000 people are out there and a lot of them are using medicine Senator Erickson but a lot of them are just smoking pot,” says Senator Art Wittich (R – Senate District 35.)
But that pot, according to senators against House Bill 161, is making a difference in people’s lives. “To take it away from them because some other people are misbehaving is very cruel and very immoral… and I will continue to try and defend those who are not hurting anybody. They’re using the product in the privacy of their home their neighbors in most cases don’t even know they’re doing it but they are getting great relief from it,” says Senator Terry Murphy (R- Senate District 39.)
And while those in opposition say the voters are the only ones who should repeal the state’s marijuana law, supporters say the voters got it wrong. “Sometimes the most compassionate answer you can give is no,” says Senator Rowlie Hutton (R – Senate District 17.) The Montana Medical Marijuana Act passed a 2004 voter’s initiative with over 60%.
After over an hour of heated debate “…with 29 senators having voted ay and 21 senators having voted no House Bill 161 has passed second reading.”
Despite clearing an initial hurdle, many legislators are worried that the Governor will veto the repeal measure if it gets to his desk. Schweitzer has said in the past that he believes the law should be fixed and not repealed, which sets up the possibility that the controversial medical marijuana issue could go un-fixed this session.
“We’re playing a parlor game with people’s lives here,” adds Senator Wanzenried.
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