With public sentiment leaning toward medical marijuana reform, legislative candidates in both parties are under attack for allegedly being soft on the drug.
A poll released Friday suggested that 47 percent of Montanans might be ready to repeal medical marijuana use. More than 23,000 Montanans possessed cards for legal marijuana use two months ago, and the number continues to increase. Political foes would like voters to the think medical marijuana is “just groovy” with their adversaries, or simply can't be stopped.
“I certainly felt that our medical marijuana laws were very much in need of reform and serious rewrite,” said Rep. Margie MacDonald, a Democrat campaigning in House District 54.
Earlier this week, fliers sent out to residents of south and southwest Billings depicted MacDonald as an advocate for allowing medical marijuana to be given to children. The fliers depicted MacDonald's own campaign literature taped to the window of a medical marijuana shop.
Similar cards were mailed out a week earlier against incumbent Wanda Grinde, a Democrat in the eastern part of the Heights.
MacDonald and Grinde were among 49 Democrats who attempted to dislodge a bill reforming state medical marijuana laws out of committee in 2009. The bill had won bipartisan support in the state Senate, but couldn't make it out of committee for a vote of the full House. The reform attempt subsequently died.
The Republican Legislative Campaign Committee, which mailed the fliers, colored MacDonald's vote as an endorsement for the changes the reform bill would have actually made.
Not so, MacDonald said Friday. Getting the bill out of committee would have enabled the House to install the reforms it wanted.
Earlier in the month, it was incumbent Roy Brown of Senate District 25 in north-central Billings who was being accused of not trying to reform current medical marijuana laws. The accusation came in a flier mailed by Brown's opponent, Democrat Kendall Van Dyk. But Brown is a member of the legislative interim committee tasked with reforming current medical marijuana law.
Craig Wilson, of the Montana State University Billings political science department, said medical marijuana reform is a hot campaign issue because repeal is gaining popularity with voters.
“In my mind, the original intent was good, but the way it was written,” Wilson said of the current medical marijuana law. “Obviously to me, the sense voters have is, 'Hey this law is being abused.' “
Montana State University Billings poll results released Friday showed 47 percent of voters supporting repeal, while 37 percent opposed it, and 15.9 percent were undecided.