Montana medical marijuana

Across Montana, medical marijuana dispensaries are facing federal charges. A recently produced documentary film called “Code of the West” is screening in four Montana communities across the state this week.

Director of “Code of the West”, Rebecca Richman Cohen, and her crew spent nearly two years filming, researching and editing the final version of the new documentary, which tells it’s viewer of the emotional story of the debates surrounding the legislative efforts to amend and repeal the 2004 voter-approved law that legalized medical marijuana use for certain patients. This week, Cohen will screen “Code of the West” in theatres across the state.

High-profile figures from across the entire political spectrum are taking part in screening and post-screening discussion groups which are being held in Missoula, Bozeman and Billings counties in the upcoming week.

“Code of the West” documents the 2011 Montana Legislature as it debated marijuana regulation and appeal of the Montana Medical Marijuana Act. The Montana Medical Marijuana Act was passed with a 62% approval rating by voters in 2004. The documentary follows central legislative figures involved in the debate, one being Tom Daubert, a longtime lobbyist for public and environmental related issues including medicinal marijuana. Recently, Daubert reached a plea agreement with federal prosecutors after federal agency officials raided his former operating business, Montana Cannabis. Federal agents raided Montana Cannabis in March of 2011. Tom Daubert’s former colleagues of Montana Cannabis, such as co-owners, also face federal indictments.

“Code of the West” held a post-screening panel discussion in Billings County on Tuesday, which Daubert attended as part of the panel.

On the opposing side of the debate, the documentary follows advocates of the medical marijuana repeal effort, which included Cherrie Brady of Safe Communities and Safe Kids, as well as Montana House Speaker Mike Milburn. House Speaker Millburn sponsored the bill that repealed the medical marijuana initiative and wanted to make all marijuana use a crime again. Millburn will participate in the documentary’s panel discussion in Helena on Thursday at the Myrna Loy Center. Cherrie Brady sat on the Billings post-screening panel. Millburn said of the film, “Even in the couple of years we’ve had medical marijuana, it has changed the culture of Montana, but we are still living under the federal law and that makes it hard to even come up with a legitimate state law.”

Emmy Award-nominated documentary filmmaker, director and writer of “Code of the West”, Rebecca Richman Cohen, began researching Montana’s medical marijuana law in July of 2012 and came to the state on a research trip August of the previous year. Cohen said that she wanted to document the social and political challenges of a state struggling to regulate a drug that remains illegal under federal law. Cohen said, “While the film allows a story that is unique and specific to Montana, this political debate and its implications are relevant nationwide. People were really divided in Montana. Most folks were not satisfied with how the law was implemented when we started filming in 2010. It raised really hard questions.”

As reported of March 31, 2012, the Montana Medical Marijuana Program under the Department of Public Health and Human Services reported 11,993 medical marijuana cardholders. Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana in some form. The federal government still does not recognize any legitimate medicinal value or use of the drug.