Bad DUI law enacted; reform measures fail to advance
An ill-conceived and unscientific DUI law went into effect October 1. The new law makes it a crime for a driver to have five or more nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) in his or her bloodstream, whether or not the person is actually impaired. Without a doubt, people should not drive while impaired. However, medical marijuana patients may have that level of THC in their blood long after any impairment has worn off. This law is bad for medical marijuana patients because it does not reflect on their ability to drive safely. Tell your representative and senator to repeal this unfair law here.
Rep. Kelly McCarthy introduced four common sense bills to repair the current medical marijuana law and essentially remove several restrictions. HB 340, HB 341, HB 342, and HB 343 would have freed recommending physicians from audits by the Board of Medical Examiners, allowed marijuana providers to receive compensation, allowed providers to serve more than three patients, and prohibited law enforcement from warrantless searches. Each of these provisions are a part of the current law, but were blocked because of a court challenge to the current medical marijuana law. Unfortunately, the bills did not make it out of committee. Similarly, Sen. Dave Wanzenried sponsored a bill that would have overhauled the medical marijuana program entirely, SB 377. It, too, did not emerge from committee.
Feds raid, prosecute Montana medical marijuana providers
During and following President Obama’s election campaign, he repeatedly stated that he did not think federal law enforcement resources should be spent going after medical marijuana program participants in compliance with state law. Nonetheless, the federal government focused a lot of taxpayer money on Montana in what many believe was an effort to stamp out the medical marijuana industry and encourage the state legislature to repeal the law. While many small businesses did survive, and the legislature was not successful in its repeal effort, a series of federal raids on March 14, 2011 did cause many patients and providers to go underground. Twenty-four locations were raided in a single day, and over 30 people were ultimately charged and convicted by the federal government.
Montana’s marijuana laws; efforts to change them
In Montana, possession of even a single joint for non-medical purposes can land you in jail for six months, while possession of 60 grams or more (a little over two ounces) can result in a sentence of up to five years. These stiff marijuana penalties cause related negative consequences. Check out this 2009 report by Jon Gettman, Ph.D. for more about the negative consequences of Montana’s marijuana laws.
Since Dr. Gettman’s report was issued, arrest rates have continued to increase. In 2011, there were 1,335 arrests for marijuana-related offenses, 94% of which were for possession. The number of marijuana arrests more than tripled since 2003. At the same time, law enforcement solved only 19.8% of all rapes reported and 8.3% of all burglaries. Instead of arresting adults for possession of a product that is safer than alcohol, law enforcement should focus its limited resources on going after real criminals.
If you believe that Montana law enforcement dollars could be better spent going after real criminals, write your legislators a letter urging them to support legislation reducing marijuana possession penalties. Or, ask them to legalize marijuana for adults 21 and older and to regulate it like alcohol.
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