Letters: River guides and fly shops part of Montana’s cash-for-play industry

The Missoula Current just presented a group letter from seven members of the “Montana Outdoors Community,” who hammered Montana Representative Mike Hopkins (R-Missoula County) for being the Legislature’s lead dog for an obviously (and appropriately) massive rewrite of last year’s weed initiative (I-190).

Let’s cut to the chase. Their missive, same as the campaign to pass I-190, is an exemplar of dishonesty and deflection, a textbook example of shameless political “rent-seeking.”

The Oxford dictionary defines political rent-seeking as the “practice of manipulating policy or economic conditions as a strategy for increasing profits.”

Obviously, I-190’s out-of-state dark-money backers intend mainly to massively increase the profit potential of Montana’s “cannabis” sector by legalizing and industrializing “marijuana infused” consumables. But these seven, claiming to represent the “Montana Outdoors Community” in general, also stand to profit substantially if I-190 isn’t amended.

As four fly-fishing outfitters and three guides, it’s more honest to say the writers represent only that tiny, intensely self-interested “industry” – not any larger “community.”

They want cannabis-tax revenues spent in ways that will help their industry further monetize “incredible assets” of not only public infrastructure (conveniently paid for “the public” instead of the pros whom use “public” infrastructure the most) but public wildlife resources, increasing their, you guessed it, guiding and outfitting profits.

Do they speak for average sportspeople, who grew up loving our sport (not the “industry”), know the game, have the tools, and sure as heck don’t need a guide to succeed? Not at all. Our sick reality is, average Montana sportspeople (like me) already compete with these “outdoors community” pros for Montana’s “incredible assets” every single time we hit field or stream!

In theory, under I-190, peons and professionals alike might get boat launches, made “free” because they’re paid for by taxes levied on the “cannabis infused,” who in all likelihood will end up too stoned to actually use all the “incredible assets” they’re paying for.

Nor might the infused care who will really rake in the lion’s share of this weed windfall, which includes these same outfitters and guides, of course. They already get paid to be out and about, flailing and flogging our public resources full-time for private gain, while the rest of us work our real jobs. We’re left with weekends and a faint hope the pros didn’t cream off these “incredible assets.”

Let’s face it. From the start, I-190 was, is, and always will be, cronyist rent-seeking at its worst. It was specifically designed to divert cash away from the “cannabis-infused,” primarily to profit not just pot growers, but a select grouping of allied mercenary interests. As currently written, I-190 mandates taking money from other people with nothing of real value returned, an arrangement of pure, concentrated, unadulterated profit – all of it unearned, and to be “blunt,” undeserved.

Can Rep. Mike Hopkins work with other grownup Montana legislators in making pot legalization a success for all Montanans, instead of an undeserved jackpot for a stunningly selfish few that burdens everyone else? He can, and will.

Dave Skinner of Kalispell was nearly killed on the job by a “cannabis-infused” co-worker.