New York Times Inhales Free-Market Fumes in Defense of Medical Marijuana in Montana

March 7th, 2011 3:34 PM

One doesn’t often see the New York Times reporting on laws and regulations that hurt business, so when you do you can assume there’s a liberal twist in the tale. From Bozeman, Mont., Denver bureau chief Kirk Johnson notified readers on the front of Sunday’s National section that “A Boon to the Economy Faces Repeal in Montana.” The “repeal” involves repealing the state’s six-year-old medical marijuana laws.

Questions about who really benefits from medical marijuana are now gripping Montana. In the Legislature, a resurgent Republican majority elected last fall is leading a drive to repeal the six-year-old voter-approved statute permitting the use of marijuana for medical purposes, which opponents argue is promoting recreational use and crime.

Johnson’s previous reporting has not shown much sympathy toward conservatives or business, but he managed to make a fine free-market argument when it came to a predominantly liberal/libertarian priority like medical marijuana:

Economic ripples or entanglements extend in every direction, business people like the Schmidts say -- gardening supply companies where marijuana growers are buying equipment, mainstream bakeries that are contracting for pot-laced pastries, and even the state’s biggest utility, NorthWestern Energy, which is seeing a surge in electricity use by the new factories. Medical marijuana, measured by numbers of patients, has roughly quadrupled in Montana in the last year.


And unlike the situation in sunny California or Colorado, where medical marijuana has similarly surged, growing marijuana indoors is all but mandatory here, a fact that has compounded the capital expenditures for start-ups and spread the economic benefits around further still. An industry group formed by marijuana growers estimates that they spend $12 million annually around the state, and that 1,400 jobs were created mostly in the last year in a state of only 975,000 people.

Jeremy Peters’s October 5, 2010 story also made the financial argument for medical marijuana in Montana, but from the perspective of local newspapers making money off medical marijuana ads, with none of the paper’s usual handwringing over how corporate advertising affects coverage.