On a muddy lot just east of the voting offices on the fairgrounds Tuesday at noon, a few cars lined up, and a yard sign supporting the medical marijuana reform initiative leaned on a podium.
But the scheduled rally by Montana Citizens for I-182 consisted only of Field Director Morgan Marks, Deputy Field Director Dani Howlet, three speakers, and three watching journalists.
Rep. Ellie Hill (HD-94) opened the rally, speaking to those present about how medical marijuana has helped her husband.
“I came today on my lunch break,” Hill said, “because I-182 means so much to me as a wife, a legislator and as someone who’s married to someone with stage three testicular cancer.”
A couple of cars came in and out of the parking lot by the elections office to turn in the ballots that list the initiative.
The initiative proposes to remove a three-patient limit for providers and allows them to hire staff to cultivate, dispense and transport medical marijuana.
It also requires annual inspections of medical marijuana facilities by the state, but removes the authority of law enforcement to conduct unannounced inspections.
“Legal access to a medicine that works for them is important,” Hill said. “Please, please vote yes on I-182.”
Chris Lindsey, an attorney and former medical marijuana distributor, stepped up to the podium.
Lindsey was sentenced to five years of probation and three months of house arrest in 2013 after pleading guilty to conspiracy to maintain drug premises for his participation in Montana Cannabis, one of 25 providers in Montana raided by the feds in 2011.
He first got his medical marijuana card in 2006, he said, two years after Montana legalized the practice.
“This had been a voter initiative,” he said. “It was a very popular initiative.”
But under a new law, sponsored by what Hill called a “small faction of legislators,” 93 percent of patients in Montana didn’t have a provider once the law took effect on Aug. 31.
This year’s initiative would give safe access and logical regulation, Lindsey said. He encouraged people to get their votes in early and make their voices heard in this year’s election.
Boone Goddard, owner and sales manager of the Valley Journal, a weekly newspaper in Ronan, suffers from the autoimmune condition ankylosing spondylitis, which causes chronic pain and inflammation in his shoulders, spine, back and hips.
Throughout his 20s, Goddard said he would be in such pain he couldn’t get out of bed some mornings.
But two years ago he signed up for a medical marijuana card and his whole life changed, with none of the unproductiveness or other negative side effects he heard marijuana might induce.
“Every time I get out of bed pain-free, I feel pretty high,” Goddard said, continuing to riff on the term, saying he also feels “high” when he’s able to hike in Montana’s beautiful mountains and jump on the trampoline with his kids.
“As somebody who is living proof of cannabis therapy, I will continue to educate myself and others,” he said. “Even if you don’t use cannabis or understand the science behind it … show compassion as Montanans do.”