Diane Sands is used to having her name taken in vain.
That’s just part of being a liberal from Missoula in the Montana Legislature.
But her name surfaced recently in a way that offended and troubled her at a profound level.
A possible witness in a federal drug investigation was asked whether Sands might be part of a conspiracy to sell medical marijuana. The questions came from Drug Enforcement Administration agents from Billings who were investigating medical marijuana businesses, and Sands learned about the inquiry from the witness’ attorney.
“So now, if you’re a state legislator who has been working on medical marijuana laws, you are somehow part of a conspiracy,” said Sands, who represents House District 95 in Missoula and works as development director for the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula. “It’s ridiculous, of course, but it’s also threatening to think that the federal government is willing to use its influence and try to chill discussion about this subject.”
Sands isn’t the only one with concerns. At least one other legislator declined comment regarding DEA questions about the legislator’s duties out of concern over “additional harassment.”
And the American Civil Liberties Union in Montana, which is itself full of attorneys, spoke with an outside attorney in regards to its advocacy work regarding marijuana.
“When you hear this sort of thing, there’s a part of you that just gets irritated, but there’s a part of you that knows you have to, as an organization, make sure you’ve dotted the I’s and crossed the T’s,” said the ACLU’s executive director, Scott Crichton.
Sands and the ACLU aren’t actually worried about criminal charges. They’ve done nothing wrong other than advocate a point of view counter to the opinion held by federal law enforcement.
But both have played high-profile roles in the discussion over medical marijuana in Montana, and the ACLU has been vocal for years in its support for the legalization of marijuana. And they find abhorrent the idea that mere advocacy might be questioned.
“It’s chilling, and it dredges up darker days from the ’50s and ’60s,” said Crichton.
Sands is more blunt: “Can you say McCarthy? This sounds like stuff from the House Un-American Activities Committee and Joe McCarthy. So once you talk about medical marijuana in reasonable terms, you’re on some sort of list of possible conspirators.”