Dateline: Feb. 15, 2008

Dillon-Area Marijuana ?Bust? Condemned as Law Enforcement ?Persecution?

A Seriously Ill Medical Marijuana Patient Now Lives in Agony, & Fearing Threat of Prison for His Last Days of Life

Taxpayer Liability for the Patient's Healthcare Alone Would Exceed $136,000 per Month

News Links:
Felony charges pending in large MJ grow operation near Dillon

Dillon, MT MJ grow operation "busted"

Patients and Families United responds:

The so-called ?large pot-growing operation? that government agents raided north of Dillon recently was in fact a private, personal medicine-growing facility for a desperately ill medical marijuana patient ? and both the government confiscation of the medicine and the subsequent media coverage illustrate the persistent ignorance that enables the continued, unfair persecution of suffering patients, says Patients & Families United.

Patients & Families United is a support group for Montana's medical marijuana patients, regardless of their medical condition, and pain patients, whether they use medical marijuana or not.  A wealth of scientific research over the last 30+ years has documented the value of medical marijuana in treating a wide variety of conditions, including severe chronic pain.

In 2004, Montana voters ? by the widest margin in U.S. history ? approved making medical marijuana legal for patients suffering certain medical conditions.  Dillon's Beaverhead County was one of the many counties where a majority of voters passed the measure.  The law specifies that qualifying patients may grow and possess enough marijuana to meet their legitimate medical needs.  Currently, nearly 600 Montanans in 34 counties are registered medical marijuana patients based on recommendations from 145 physicians across the state.

?It's time for local, state and federal law enforcement officials to recognize and honor Montana's three-plus-year-old medical marijuana law, rather than to ignore it as they did so unconscionably in this case,? said Bob Meharg, chairman of the board of directors of Patients & Families United.  A veteran and retired trauma nurse, Meharg is himself a registered medical marijuana patient.

?Taxpayers have just footed the bill for an untold number of wasted dollars in this sad incident near Dillon,? Meharg reported, ?and if the government charges and manages to convict the patient involved, we?ll be paying more than $136,000 every month for the patient's medical care alone.  I am shocked to see that the government is claiming that it investigated this case for three months, yet when the government acted against this poor patient it was in such complete ignorance both of our state's medical marijuana law and of the basic facts of this situation.?

Meharg declined to give details about the patient's medical condition, citing the patient's right to privacy, but noted that the condition is a rare and terminal, degenerative one.

'suffice it to say that the medical marijuana patient involved in this situation suffers from a truly tragic medical condition that he was born with, a condition that usually causes death during childhood.  He is fortunate to have lived into adulthood, but he would die without injections that cost more than $136,000 per month, and medical marijuana plays a critical pain-treatment role in his doctor-approved healthcare regimen,? he said.

He emphasized that the grow-operation involved in this case existed for and served only medical marijuana patients who qualify under Montana's compassionate law.

Meharg cautioned the law enforcement agencies and the government jurisdictions involved, which would include Beaverhead County and all its taxpayers, that in a similar case in Colorado, courts recently have found law enforcement officials directly responsible for the welfare and condition of the medical marijuana plants they seized.

?They confiscated legal medicine that merely enables this patient to endure his condition.  This raises serious legal risks to law enforcement and the taxpayers who fund them.  Courts in other states where medical marijuana is legal have ruled that law enforcement must return the medicine to the patient or compensate the patient by paying for its full value,? Meharg reported.

?This is why it's so important for law enforcement officials to make sure they understand our compassionate medical marijuana law and to make sure they don?t disrupt a legitimate patient's life,? he insisted.  ?Ultimately, taxpayers get stuck with all the costs, none of which should have been incurred in the first place.  Meanwhile, a human being who deserves our support and understanding, instead lives needlessly in physical agony and emotionally traumatized by fear.?

Meharg asked: ?Would even a single one of the law enforcement agents who participated in this raid volunteer to trade places with this patient?  Would anyone volunteer to face his medical condition ? with or without the doctor-recommended medical marijuana that gives him relief from his pain?  I doubt it.?