HELENA — Congressional candidate Rob Quist declined Tuesday to discuss his support for decriminalizing marijuana usage after a revelation in court records that, at least at one point, he had smoked it “two or three times a month.”
The Creston Democrat stopped in Missoula on Tuesday as part of a final campaign push leading up to the May 25 special election to fill Montana’s sole U.S. House seat, vacated when Republican Ryan Zinke was appointed Secretary of the Interior.
An hour before the event’s start at Great Burn Brewing, a national conservative media site posted and wrote about public court records from a 20-year old malpractice lawsuit Quist had filed against a doctor who cut the wrong duct during a gallbladder surgery.
The documents included discussion of some sensitive personal medical information and whether those details would be admissible in court for that case, including an intake form where Quist said he occasionally used marijuana and had tested positive for a tuberculosis-causing bacteria “since grade school.”
It is unclear how long Quist smoked marijuana, for what purpose, and if he continues to do so today. It is also unclear what the positive TB tine tests mentioned in the lawsuit might mean for his current health.
Some people test positive on those tests without having ever personally contracted the illness and some who carry the bacteria that causes the disease never will become sick themselves.
Quist has previously stated that he supports legalizing marijuana for medical and recreational use, or at minimum decriminalizing its use. His opponent, Republican Greg Gianforte of Bozeman, has said he supports limited medical use but not recreational use, calling it a gateway drug.
Quist campaign spokeswoman Tina Olechowski canceled the interview after she learned it would include questions about his marijuana platform and other health issues highlighted in the post about the court records. She insisted the reasons for the cancellation be off the record.
Olechowski promised to provide an emailed statement about Quist’s marijuana policy platform, how his personal use has shaped that stance and whether he had comments about his medical history becoming public, among other questions.
"Like most Montanans, Rob Quist believes a family's medical history should be private. It is unfortunate Lee Newspapers disagrees," Olechowski said in an email that pivoted instead to criticize the Affordable Health Care Act, the Affordable Care Act replacement plan passed by U.S. House Republicans, and a leaked phone call in which Gianforte said he supported the appeal of the existing policy.
Quist is far from the first person holding or seeking public office known to have smoked marijuana.
Fellow Democrats include presidential candidate Al Gore who said it was “infrequent and rare” when he inhaled the smoke, and former president Barack Obama, who wrote in one of his memoirs about smoking with a group of teenage friends in Hawaii that jokingly called themselves “the Choom Gang.”
Republicans include former presidential candidates Rick Santorum, who described his college pot smoking as “something that I’m not proud of,” and Jeb Bush, who copped to past use during a 2015 debate and apologized to his mom for embarrassing her with the admission.