An ominous story out of Montana surfaced earlier this week when it was reported that thrice-elected state House Representative Diane Sands (D-Missoula) was the subject of Drug Enforcement Administration questioning of a potential witness in a federal investigation of legal medicinal cannabis dispensaries. Specifically, DEA agents from the Billings, Montana office asked the possible witness if Sands was part of a broader conspiracy engaging in medical marijuana sales.
The witness’s attorney then tipped Rep Sands off to the line of questioning that involved her. Both the DEA and the U.S. Attorney’s office have declined to state exactly why Sands’ name came up in their investigation of dispensaries.
The feds’ interest appears politically motivated, as Rep Sands’ only known association with medical marijuana has been in her tireless support of upholding the state’s medi-pot laws in the Montana Legislature. Unfortunately, Sands and the interim committee she was a part of had their attempt to preserve the essence of Montana’s medi-pot dispensaries quashed by the Republican-controlled majority in the State Legislature in 2011. Montana, which had over 4,600 dispensaries statewide just nine months ago, is now down to less than 400 and shrinking.
Besides fighting for medical marijuana, Sands also holds the distinction of being the first openly gay person elected to the Montana State Legislature; first in 1996, and then when she returned to the state, triumphing again in 2006 with re-election victories coming in ’08 and ‘10 (she will be termed out later this year). Almost as rare as being lesbian in Montana politics is Sands being openly liberal in a state known for its conservative leanings.
The outspoken Rep Sands responded to the DEA associating her name out of left field with their medi-pot investigation to the Missoulian: “Can you say McCarthy?” – a reference to the 1950’s-era communist-hunting U.S. Senator. “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.”