By Emily Stifler

Today, federal and local authorities entered Big Sky Patient Care, a medical marijuana dispensary in the RJS tower in the meadow area in Big Sky. The agents had a sealed search and seizure warrant, and they declined to comment.

At the same time, DEA agents were at Big Sky Patient Care’s Four Corners location, having locked owners and employees out of the shop and asking all patients for ID. Those officials brought a moving truck, apparently to confiscate items from the building.

Concurrently, DEA and FBI agents and local authorities raided medical marijuana operations statewide. A spokesman at the DEA in Denver said the U.S. attorney’s office in Montana wouldn’t allow any comment on the raids. The DEA has also conducted raids in Colorado in the past couple weeks.

In Helena this morning, the medical marijuana repeal bill stalled in the state Senate. The bill, sponsored by House Speaker Mike Milburn (R-Cascade), passed in the House in February by a 63-37 vote. If passed, it would repeal the voter-passed initiative from 2004 that legalized medical use of marijuana.

At the initial Senate hearing on Friday, members of the public spoke to the Senate. A Big Sky caregiver attended the hearing:

“What struck me was the people speaking in favor of the repeal were big heavy hitters—mayors of prominent towns, chiefs of police from several towns, and the head of drug task force in Montana. Many more spoke in favor of the law not to repeal it—mostly people working in the industry or patients. A doctor spoke about the proven medical use, and schoolteachers said they didn’t see an increase of marijuana use in schools.”

Beyond the Senate, a repeal or regulation bill would go to Governor Schweitzer for final decision. Montana, which has never repealed a voter-passed initiative, would be the first state to repeal a medical marijuana law.

The 12-person Senate Judiciary Committee will have heavy clout in further action. Committee Chairman, Senator Terry Murphy (R-Cardwell), favors reform because he believes marijuana’s medical benefits are valuable, but he stated none of the reform bills “seem to do the whole job… They are either overregulating or not covering every area…”

Representative James Knox (R-Billings) is also webmaster of Safe Community Safe Kids, the Billings-based group backing the repeal. He said that group is not affiliated with a particular religion, and the majority of their funding has come from small internet donations. He watched medical marijuana legalization “ruin” California, and he doesn’t want to see Montana have a similar “breakdown of morals.”

On the other hand, Representative Diane Sands (D-Missoula), suggested in lieu of repealing the voter initiative, the state legislature should regulate the industry. “Temperance and prohibition does not work,” Sands stated.

Medical cannabis is legal under state law in 15 states. Montana has never repealed a voter-passed initiative, and it would be the first state to repeal such a law.

addendum: Americans For Safe Access provided a link to one of the search warrants, which was opened this afternoon:
AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/MT_Warrant_DEA.pdf