I have lived in Montana for over a year and have practiced law here for about the same time. I have handled various medical marijuana cases and have become familiar with the legal and political scenario regarding state and federal laws on medical marijuana.
During this time I have seen a most disturbing sign of our political condition, and it confirms what I have expressed for the past several years concerning state sovereignty verses federal usurpation.
Montana Medical Marijuana Laws
In 2004 the citizens of Montana overwhelmingly passed an initiative to legalize the medical use of marijuana. (Please, if you oppose legalizing marijuana, do not let the subject fog a clear understanding of the point of this article–personal views on morality is not the issue.)
Since then, the State legislature has essentially repealed that law and replaced it with another medical marijuana plan. Regardless of which marijuana law, the lawful use of marijuana for medical use remains.
Conflict with Federal Drug Laws
This state law is, of course, in violation of federal laws that outlaw all possession, manufacturing, growing, and use of marijuana. So, how does this conflict play out in the federal union of the United States? And what do the state and federal governments’ actions regarding the same reveal about this union’s condition?
Federal Prosecutions in Montana
Since early 2011, the federal government has initiated raids and prosecutions against Montana citizens for alleged violation of federal drug laws—in spite of Montana’s laws.
Federal agents focused their attacks on those who were doing business openly—using store front, public advertisement, incorporated registration, etc. This is significant given that the Feds claim they investigated these matters for “years”—it is comparable to investigating Wal-Mart for selling products made in China. Makes you wonder how proficient they are in tax-dollar use.
Federal “Conspiracy” Charges Against Citizens
Word has spread in Montana that the federal government considers certain people as conspiring to violate federal law where those people have only relationships with marijuana users and providers.
For example, a general contractor who builds a greenhouse for a provider; a landlord who rents a grow building to a grower; a person who supplies manufacturing materials; a doctor who prescribes marijuana to a patient; an attorney who drafts legal documents for a marijuana incorporation—all are subject to federal prosecution as “conspirators.”
In fact, one such contractor has been federally charged, and I know of an attorney who has been made a “generous” plea offer of over 100 years in federal prison. What an outrage!
If you study and understand the fundamental concepts regarding state sovereignty and federalism, this situation should burn coals in your gut. But it is worse than the obvious issues of inviolable separation of state from federal usurpation.
Who Are the “Conspirators” to the Feds?
Get a good grasp of this picture: the legislators of Montana pass a law permitting the medical use of marijuana, and similarly, for 7 years, never repeal the marijuana law the people directly passed; the executive branch of Montana signs the same into law; the executive’s administrations regulate and provide for the legal methods of using and distributing marijuana in the State; the Montana Supreme Court has recognized marijuana as a prescription drug; the Secretary of State certifies corporations who openly operate medical marijuana business.
In short, those in the marijuana business are working as legitimately under State law as a local barber shop—not to mention, the State is receiving taxes from this industry and has supplied payroll, covered overhead, and built infrastructure with these taxes. During these economic times, this is not a small matter.
Yet, the Federal government prosecutes Montana’s citizens who comply with a law the state government passed, permitted, executed, and administered on their behalf. The Feds do not attack the power of the State directly by prosecuting State officials. Rather the Feds attack Montana’s citizens, thereby ruining the lives of those without sufficient power, money, and force of government to protect the State’s sovereignty recognized in the tenth amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
How convenient for shaping the issue of federal authority. Were the Feds to focus their criminal prosecutions on State officials, the issues would look quite difficult. The Feds avoid this scene. I guess the public mind has not been completely indoctrinated to that level—yet.
Apply Federal Authority Equally—What Would Result?
Here is the question:
if it is lawful for the federal government to arrest Montana citizens who are complying with State law for violating federal law (including those who “conspire” to help users or providers with this unlawful use of marijuana), then would it not also be for them to prosecute state officials who instigated the conspiracy to begin with by putting into place the law so people could benefit from it?
If the answer is, yes; then we do not live in a federal union composed of sovereign states—we live in a national system with the States being nothing but counties to the one-nation, AMERICAN STATE.
If the answer is, no; then what power does the federal government have to arrest a state citizen in complying with a state law?
And what is to be said about the sovereignty of the States and the federal union it created where state government does nothing to protect its own sovereignty?
“State” Officials Are Really Federal (Sub)Agents
It is contemptible that the government of the State of Montana would pretend to care about the sovereignty of the people of Montana by passing a law on their behalf only to hide behind their official status while the federal government bulldozes its way into this state to arrest any Montanan it says is breaking federal law.
Given the way the federal government treats the citizens of the States and the State’s land, the question must be asked: what good are States anyway? Why do we even have States where this kind of action takes place supposedly pursuant to the U.S. Constitution? It would seemingly be much better were we to get rid of the pretense and the litigation arguing the point.
However, seeing that this exact type of constitution was proposed at the 1787 constitutional convention but rejected indicates that the system being implemented today is not constitutional after all.
All the while, State officials sit in their fancy government chairs in a beautiful, big State house, pass state laws, pull the rug over their eyes to the federal government’s intrusion of the State’s sovereignty, and somehow think they are representing the State of Montana.
Sovereignty un-asserted and unprotected is no sovereignty at all. Even the Federalist authors—the “liberals” of their day—admitted this about our federal system.
Will Montana (and Other States) Elect a Real State Leader in 2012?
The States are reaching a tipping point. Either the States are going to be crushed under the weight of the federal government, or (some) will successfully reclaim sovereignty that has been lost for over 150 years. The real question is: what will be the catalyst to cause the tip?
There is hardly any room, if any, left for (federal) courts to determine issues of political power and the sovereignty of the people. This can only be decided by the people—the source of political power.
Montana needs a governor to stand up for the sovereignty of the people of Montana—a governor who will not hide behind his executive position but will assert his position to protect our sovereignty and independence—who will uphold the tenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
I hope the people of Montana will recognize the vital importance of this issue. It is not about Republican or Democrat; conservative or liberal; red, blue, or green. It is about liberty and a republican and federal form of government.
Those who snuff at this fundamental concept only reveal their priorities and misunderstanding of American constitutional law and political philosophy; their credibility to influence these kinds of decisions should be seen as meritless and elementary.
For you Montanans who see this importance, I hope you will cut through politicians’ rhetoric as they campaign for office in 2012 (for indeed, most, if not all, of the republicans are going to say something about State rights but will do nothing in practice to assert it). Find the candidate who will be a true leader and stand for the rights of the State of Montana. It is their duty.
The only way you can preserve your freedom in the State of Montana is to elect a governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general who will support and defend our constitutions in reality, not in charade only.
© 2011 Timothy N. Baldwin, JD – All Rights Reserved