"When a state has an ongoing discussion about its laws, and its lawmakers' names are being brought up by federal agents, I will be hard to convince that there's any other reason than to send a message." -- Diane Sands, D-Missoula
MISSOULA, MT — The Drug Enforcement Agency has a new approach in its war against marijuana users: investigating lawmakers who push for marijuana law reform. In what can only be seen as scare tactics by the DEA to persuade law makers in other states to think twice about writing sensible marijuana legislation, a pro-marijuana liberal state legislator from Montana has come under investigation by the DEA.
Diane Sands (D-Missoula) has been very outspoken in the Montana state legislature, advocating for liberalized medical marijuana laws and also advocating for the federal rescheduling of marijuana, so that it becomes an issue that can be decided by individual states. The investigation began when 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 who were investigating medical marijuana businesses. Other than her work as a lawmaker, Sands has no connections to medical marijuana, which is allowed under Montana state law. She contends that she has done nothing wrong other than advocate a point of view counter to the opinion held by federal law enforcement.
“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. “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, an avid historian who works as a director for the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula, has a reputation among lawmakers for comparing the present day battle over marijuana to other historical events in our nation’s past.
“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.”
“Any suggestion that the federal government is investigating me is very chilling,” she continues. “When you have government officials investigating lawmakers because of how they pursue their official duties, you have a problem.”
Neither the DEA nor the U.S. Attorney’s Office will say why Sands’ name came up. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica Fehr said the office can’t respond to specific inquiries about cases, and declined to talk in general about the U.S. attorney’s goals in terms of prosecuting medical marijuana cases.
“The bottom line is, there’s no reason for my name to come up,” said Sands. “So they can say what they want about who they are going to prosecute, but when a state has an ongoing discussion about its laws, and its lawmakers’ names are being brought up by federal agents, I will be hard to convince that there’s any other reason than to send a message.”