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Montana Lawmakers Vote to Repeal Medical Pot; Arizona's Prop 203 Probably Safe From Similar Fate

Montana's House of Representatives voted today, mainly along party lines, to repeal the state's voter-approved medical marijuana program. It seems doubtful that Governor Brian Schweitzer, a Democrat, will go along with the plan -- even if this really isn't his pot card.
Montana's House of Representatives voted today, mainly along party lines, to repeal the state's voter-approved medical marijuana program. It seems doubtful that Governor Brian Schweitzer, a Democrat, will go along with the plan -- even if this really isn't his pot card.

Montana's State House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly yesterday to repeal that state's 2004 voter-approved medical marijuana initiative

The repeal bill still needs to go before the State Senate -- and faces possible veto by Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer, a Democrat. But the vote, even though it fell sharply along party lines, was seen as a minor victory by pot prohibitionists in Arizona and nationwide.

"It's a great sign for those of us who truly believe that marijuana isn't medicine," says Carolyn Short, who helped lead the unsuccessful "No on 203" campaign in Arizona.

Short claims that Arizona's Legislature could repeal Prop 203 or change it, despite the 1998 Voter Protection Act.

Not possible, says Andrew Myers, front man for the group that put Prop 203 on the ballot.

This innocent-looking bud could cause children to prostitute themselves, according to Montana's House Speaker, Mike Milburn.
This innocent-looking bud could cause children to prostitute themselves, according to Montana's House Speaker, Mike Milburn.

Not only does the Voter Protection Act require a three-quarter majority of lawmakers to mess with a voter-approved initiative, Myers says, but any change must advance -- not water down -- the initiative.

Lawmakers "really have no power here," Myers boasts.

Another factor that can't be ignored by Arizona lawmakers is that the Voter Protection Act was ratified by voters after lawmakers in 1996 messed with a voter-approved medical pot measure. The upshot for marijuana supporters is that Prop 203 is probably radioactive, from a political point of view.

Speaking of politics, the vote in Montana was nothing but. Only one Democrat voted for the repeal.

And get a load of the socially conservative, propaganda-like rhetoric:

Montana House Speaker Mike Milburn calls the spread of marijuana in the state a "totally uncontrolled epidemic" and a scourge, according to an article in the Montana Missoulian. Milburn also passes along a highly suspicious rumor from an unnamed school principal that legalized medical pot has led to children "prostituting their own selves to gain access to drugs."

Utter hogwash, if you ask us.

Still, such sentiments show that the future of Prop 203 is far from assured. As observers know, the vote was a close one.

"Of course" marijuana opponents will try to put a repeal of Prop 203 on the ballot in 2012 if the law remains intact by then, Short says.

No new political committee has been formed; Short says it's still "unclear" whether lawmakers would -- or could -- try to tinker with Prop 203.

"We're still trying to figure out how to negate the impact of this law, or to get rid of it all together," she says.

As Montana's experience shows, the skies could be turbulent for Arizona's burgeoning medical pot industry.


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