Montana COVID-19 testing
Montana COVID-19 testing lab
Montana COVID-19 testing lab
Boulder River Bridge view
Boulder River Bridge view
Combat Crochet
Combat Crochet
Montana Governor Steve Bullock at Innovate Montana 2019
Montana Governor Steve Bullock at Innovate Montana 2019
Bikers and Hikers stranded at Mystic Lake Cabin
Bikers and Hikers stranded at Mystic Lake Cabin
Goat Fire mapped at 300 acres
Goat Fire fought in rugged terrain
Goat Fire fought in rugged terrain
Griz management exceeds sustainable mortality rate
Griz management exceeds sustainable mortality rate

According to the federal Gun Control Act of 1968, marijuana customers — legal and otherwise — are prohibited from possessing firearms.

While marijuana became legal for adults to purchase in Montana on New Year’s Day, a key federal agency has confirmed a fact underreported in coverage of the state’s new marijuana program: It remains illegal under federal law for individuals to simultaneously possess marijuana or marijuana products and firearms, and penalties for violating that law are severe.

The Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives confirmed the policy to Montana Free Press last week, noting that the federal Gun Control Act prohibits a person who possesses a controlled substance from possessing a firearm or ammunition. Cannabis is currently recognized as a Schedule 1 Controlled Substance

“The Gun Control Act (GCA) prohibits a person who uses a controlled substance from possessing a firearm or ammunition,” ATF Public Information Officer Crystal McCoy told MTFP.

The question is complicated by a federal form required for purchasing a firearm. It asks the applicant, “Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?” The form does not specify that even if marijuana is lawful in the applicant’s state of residence, it remains unlawful in the eyes of the bureau.

“Anyone who is currently using marijuana, whether for ‘medicinal’ purposes or otherwise, should answer ‘yes’ [on the form],” McCoy explained via email.

 “The Gun Control Act (GCA) prohibits a person who uses a controlled substance from possessing a firearm or ammunition.”


McCoy further noted that the Bureau’s position is longstanding. She cited a 2011 open letter penned by Arthur Herbert, the Bureau’s Assistant Director of Enforcement Programs and Services, offering guidance on the subject. “Marijuana, as mentioned above, is listed in the [Controlled Substance Act] as a Schedule I controlled substance … and Federal law does not provide any exception allowing the use of marijuana for medicinal or recreational purposes, even if authorized by state law,” Herbert wrote at the time.

McCoy additionally cited a 2011 case in which S. Rowan Wilson, a medical marijuana patient in Nevada, claimed in court that the policy violated her constitutional rights. In 2016, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Wilson and in favor of the U.S. Department of Justice and ATF. 

In Montana, enforcement of the policy largely hinges on self-reporting, since the state is prohibited from tracking marijuana customers or putting them on a list. The Montana Department of Revenue and Department of Justice both declined to provide comment for this story. DOJ suggested contacting a federal agency.

Violations of the law are punishable with a fine of up to $10,000 and a jail sentence of up to 10 years.  

As the libertarian Reason Foundation points out, the policy is unlikely to change until either marijuana is descheduled from the list of federally controlled substances or the Gun Control Act is amended to include exceptions for medical marijuana patients or states with legal marijuana markets.


Rosendale spoke at Oath Keepers event in 2014 but says he has no affiliation with group

Jan 17, 2022

 U.S. president Donald Trump (L) looks on as Matt Rosendale (R) speaks during a campaign rally at Four Seasons Arena on July 5, 2018 in Great Falls, Montana. President Trump held a campaign style ‘Make America Great Again’ rally in Great Falls, Montana with thousands in attendance. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)


Congressman Matthew Rosendale said on Friday he was not aware of the seditious conspiracy charges filed one day earlier against the founder of the anti-government group Oath Keepers and former Montana resident Stewart Rhodes for his involvement in the Jan.6, 2021, insurrection.

In 2014, Rosendale spoke at a pro-Second Amendment Oath Keepers rally in Kalispell. At the time, he told NBC Montana his focus was on supporting the Second Amendment, and he was in no way connected to the Oath Keepers.

The seditious conspiracy charges filed Thursday against Rhodes and 11 other Oath Keeper members are the most serious brought forth in the investigation by the Justice Department that has charged more than 700 people with federal crimes for their involvement in the riot.

The indictment alleges that Rhodes, 56, and his various co-conspirators made plans to bring weapons to the January 6 riot and spent weeks conspiring to overturn the 2020 U.S. presidential election results.

“The purpose of the conspiracy was to oppose the lawful transfer of presidential power by force, by preventing, hindering, or delaying by force the execution of the laws governing the transfer of power,” the indictment reads.

When asked Friday about the charges, Rosendale said that he was unaware of them.

“Didn’t see it, doesn’t impact me,” Rosendale said when reached at the Montana State Capitol where he was speaking at an anti-abortion rally.

Rosendale was among the House Republicans to vote against certifying the election results from Arizona and Pennsylvania after the January 6 riot.

“I will not be intimidated by mob violence from the left or the right. I will oppose certification of electors from certain disputed states,” Rosendale said in a statement at the time.

Later the same month, Rosendale was asked by NBC Montana if he had any connection to the Oath Keepers. He responded: “I have zero connection to Oath Keepers, and an event that I spoke at in 2014 was in Kalispell, and it was for the Second Amendment — to support the Second Amendment. I don’t have any affiliation with them, I have no communication with them, but I do support the Second Amendment.”


While he did not outright denounce the group in the 2021 interview with NBC Montana, he said he absolutely denounces anyone who participated in that attack.

Doubters of the Department of Justice’s investigation have used the lack of charges like treason, sedition and insurrection to question the seriousness of the January 6 riot. Earlier this year, a spokesperson for Rosendale told KTVH that the U.S. House investigation of the January 6 riot and its causes is a “partisan witch hunt.”

Rosendale did not respond directly when asked Friday if his views on the investigation have changed with the filing of more serious charges. He said the question was “completely irrelevant to the people of Montana,” and he declined to answer further questions.

Rosendale’s office did not respond to a subsequent email from the Daily Montanan asking if his view of the group has shifted given the conspiracy charges.

The indictment alleges that on November 7, 2020, Rhodes sent an encrypted message to the Oath Keepers conspiring to overturn the election results: “We must now do what the people of Serbia did when Milosevic stole their election. – Refuse to accept it and march en-masse on the nation’s Capitol.”

As part of their effort, prosecutors allege that Rhodes and the other defendants “coordinated travel across the country to enter Washington, D.C., equipped themselves with a variety of weapons, donned combat and tactical gear, and were prepared to answer Rhodes’s call to take up arms at Rhodes’s direction.”



County officials say the behavioral health organization has “on multiple occasions” been in breach of contract

Citing several breaches of its agreement, Gallatin County Commissioners and County Attorney Marty Lambert notified Western Montana Mental Health Center in a letter Monday that the agreement would be terminated in 15 business days.

“Gallatin County hereby advises all of you that WMMHC has, on multiple occasions, breached its contractual obligations to the County, including but not limited to, the provisions outlined below,” stated an accompanying Jan. 10 letter addressed to WMMHC chairperson Levi Anderson.

Gallatin County has been paying WMMHC $29,417.50 monthly to provide a range of services. One is the provision of at least one bed for temporary, involuntary holds at WMMHC’s Hope House in Bozeman for people whose mental health crisis presents a danger to themselves or others. County officials say Hope House has been insufficiently operated at various times in recent years. 



“The [Gallatin County] commissioners have been very fair to Western throughout this process. And they’ve been very patient,” Lambert said in a Wednesday phone interview. “They finally said enough is enough.”

Ending the more than 10-year contract, Lambert said, “finally allows us to move forward with the provision of these very important crisis services which have only been sporadically met by Western for quite some time.”

WMMHC’s Anderson attributes much of the difficulty at Hope House to low staffing levels exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic — an issue he says is not unique to his organization.

“The entire State of Montana is experiencing a drastic workforce shortage and behavioral health providers, WMMHC included, are struggling with workforce,” Anderson said in a Wednesday email, adding that his organization has had to be “nimble” to modify services during the pandemic. “The Gallatin County Commission and County Attorney are alleging a breach of service based on these pandemic-related operational challenges that have been experienced by many organizations, including the County themselves.”

“The [Gallatin County] commissioners have been very fair to Western throughout this process …They finally said enough is enough.”


While payments from Gallatin County will end Feb. 2, Anderson said parts of Hope House and other mental health services at its Gallatin campus will remain operational. WMMHC staff will “continue to support the needs of the Gallatin community as best we can,” he said.

Starting Feb. 3, Lambert said, county law enforcement intends to take people experiencing acute mental health crises to Bozeman Health hospital for temporary holds until they can appear before a district court judge to assess whether commitment to the Montana State Hospital is appropriate. 

Lambert said the county does not expect to enter into a new contract with any other behavioral health care provider, which would require issuing a request for proposals to interested organizations, before WMMHC’s contract ends. The county’s agreement with Bozeman Health, he said, will provide an emergency resource for people in crisis until the county can find new providers to work with long-term. 

“One very immediate need [is] the crisis response,” Lambert said. “We want a safety net there.”

Bozeman Health has expressed interest in purchasing WMMHC properties, including the Hope House, to expand the health provider’s footprint. The Hope House property is within a mile of Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital. 

In November, Bozeman Health announced it had made an offer on the property for an undisclosed amount, but WMMHC declined. On Wednesday, Anderson said that offer was unsatisfactory.

“The prior offer would have forced WMMHC to accept a nearly $4M loss on real assets based on our cost to build the infrastructure,” Anderson said. “That is not a realistic or acceptable position.”

Regarding the future of the property, Anderson said WMMHC “has been at the table and working in good faith to arrive at a resolution that will benefit the residents of Gallatin County.”



Main Auction Event to Be Held Virtually on February 5

MISSOULA, Mont., January 12, 2021
The Missoula Art Museum’s 2022 Benefit Art Auction will be produced virtually on February 5, 2022. The annual auction exhibition is on view now in the museum’s largest gallery.

The event will live-stream from 6 to 7 p.m. on February 5 and is free to watch and participate. Over 80 pieces of art are viewable online and at the museum. Artists from across the region have donated their works of art to be auctioned off in support of the museum. The pieces include sculptures, paintings, drawings, photographs, and mixed media.

“For fifty years, artists have been giving their best work to the Benefit Art Auction, and our supports have bought these pieces,” said Laura Millin, executive director of the museum. “This interchange has inspired individual art collecting, supported generations of artists, and fortified the museum for five decades. While we cannot hold the beloved gala in-person this winter due to the pandemic, we will continue this beautiful expression of the love of art, connection of artist and collector, and salute to Missoula’s contemporary art museum.”

MAM is excited to announce the return of the “Buy It Now” feature. All 72 silent auction lots will be available to purchase outright from noon on January 23 through 5 p.m. on January 27. Remaining pieces will then be open for silent auction bidding at noon on January 28. A selection of eleven artworks will be auctioned live during the main event on February 5. All are welcome to register to bid and receive updates through the bidding site.

Three works on paper included in the auction were produced during artist-in-residencies at the MATRIX Press at the University of Montana. Lot #46, a print titled Coyote's Metis Birchbark I, is a collaboration between exhibiting artist Neal Ambrose-Smith, whose exhibition č̓ č̓en ̓ u kʷes xʷúyi (Where Are You Going?) is on view at the museum now. MAM and MATRIX have collaborated on artist residencies in Missoula for twenty years. The sales of these three artworks will be split between MATRIX and MAM and help fund further collaborations.

MAM has been a cultural beacon in downtown Missoula since 1975. The museum’s commitment to commitment to free admission, free expression, and free arts education takes center stage at this signature fundraising event. The sales of live and silent auction artworks at the annual benefit art auction supports the museum’s core programs and exhibitions. The presenting sponsor for the 2022 Benefit Art Auction is US Bank.

The museum will be open for extended hours until 6 p.m. on the following Fridays: January 14, January 21, and January 28. The museum will be closed to the public on both February 4 and 5 to prepare for the main auction event. For more information, visit missoulaartmuseum.org.


Jan 12, 2022

 Workers shovel snow away from the U.S. Supreme Court building on Jan. 7, 2022 (Photo by Ariana Figueroa of States Newsroom)


Claiming that “judicial self-dealing on this scale might be unprecedented in the nation’s history,” the Montana Attorney General’s office has filed an appeal to the United States Supreme Court seeking a review of a state Supreme Court decision that declared subpoenas by the Legislature void, and ruled emails obtained through the executive branch were improper.

The appeal to the nation’s highest is part of an ongoing dispute that pits the Legislature and the governor, represented by the state attorney general Austin Knudsen, against the judiciary. It began when the Legislature wanted access to judges’ emails regarding a judges association poll on a controversial measure that ultimately replaced a judicial nominating committee with the governor appointing judges.

Gianforte has also filed an amicus curiae, a “friend of the court,” brief with the Supreme Court in support of Knudsen’s appeal.

The dispute boiled over when the Montana Legislature issued a subpoena to Department of Administration to obtain email records from the state’s court administrator, Beth McLaughlin. The DOA, which is part of the administrative branch, manages the state’s email system. McLaughlin then filed an emergency motion at the Montana Supreme Court to stop the emails from being produced, citing concerns about court and personnel confidentiality. That set off a series of motions, subpoenas and court decisions that culminated in the high court ruling the subpoenas amounted to legislative overreach and ordered the emails to be returned.

The brief filed by Knudsen’s office paints the Legislature as the victim of judicial abuse and claims it was dragged into court when it had originally wanted to negotiate the release of the records. However, the Legislature originally did not give notice to McLaughlin that lawmakers wanted the emails, instead issuing the subpoena to Misty Ann Giles, the DOA director, and sending the order to her, demanding thousands of emails to be turned over on a Saturday, with less than 48 hours’ notice. That prompted McLaughlin’s emergency appeal and set off a series of legal challenges, which have now arrived in Washington, D.C.

Knudsen argues that because the emails potentially implicated the justices on the Montana Supreme Court for pre-judging legislation being debated in the Legislature, they should have recused themselves because of the appearance of bias. Moreover, the brief raises the question whether any judge in Montana could have adjudicated the case. The Attorney General’s Office also argued that the decision violated the lawmakers’ due process rights because they could not get a fair trail, and it claims that the sitting justices ruled in their favor to avoid any more embarrassing email leaks.

“The Montana Supreme Court trounced nearly every principle of due process this court has ever enunciated,” the Attorney General’s brief said. “But due process rules ensure that no part is left to the gentle mercies of a judge he’s fighting against – particularly when the dispute arises from the judge’s alleged misconduct.”

McLaughlin, who is represented by Missoula attorney Randy Cox, declined comment on Knudsen or Gianforte’s court filings, but said a response brief will be filed with the U.S. Supreme Court by Feb. 9.


Gianforte’s filing


On Tuesday, Gianforte’s office also filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in support of Knudsen. Through his attorney, Anita Milanovich, Gianforte characterizes his interest in the case as ensuring the distinct roles of each branch of government.

Furthermore, he asks the Supreme Court to harmonize or clarify various federal court rulings about when and how judges can comment on political or current events.

“Lack of clarity in federal law has allowed the Montana judiciary to lose sight of its obligations by engaging in prejudgment of proposed legislation, violating fundamental due process protections,” Milanovich wrote.

Citing rulings from the U.S. Ninth Circuit of Appeals, it “concluded that judicial candidates could be constitutionally prohibited from a variety of political speech to preserve public confidence in the judiciary.”

That question is central to whether the Montana Judges Association’s longstanding practice of polling judges on pending legislation during the legislative sessions is illegal, amounting to pre-judging issues that could come before the court.

“Any district court decision involving new legislation may cause a litigant to wonder if the outcome was independently arrived at,” the brief said.