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Missoula Marijuana Initiative 'Ignored' By Most Of Law Enforcement


Nug of the Month: Aug 2008
Law enforcement reports of incidents involving marijuana continue to rise in the city of Missoula, and members of an oversight committee asked the county of Missoula on Wednesday to help reverse the trend.

A report released this week analyzing data for the last half of 2008 concluded the recommendation of voters in November 2006 that adult marijuana offenses be given the lowest priority by government officials "continues to be ignored by most of the officials in position to heed it."

Donna Hamilton of the county-appointed Marijuana Initiative Oversight Committee presented the third semiannual report to commissioners at their weekly public meeting. It stated that while there have been modest decreases in incidents reported by the county sheriff's department and the University of Montana, incidents reported by the Missoula Police Department seem to have risen by 50 percent since the first year.

John Masterson, chairman of the oversight committee, said many of the questions arising from the increase can't be adequately answered, because the panel isn't receiving initial incident reports from law enforcement agencies.

"We were told incident reports were impossible for us to review because they contained information about persons who were not yet charged with a crime," he said.

He's not an attorney, he said, but the way he reads a state law addressing disclosure of criminal records, those reports are public information.

"I'd love to have those initial incident reports that have the officers' narrative: 'I saw this, I did this,' " Masterson said. "That will be a lot more work, but what it'll teach us is something about the context in which these encounters are taking place."

As far as Sheriff Mike McMeekin is concerned, such reports are off limits.

"Unless or until the county attorney or attorney general tells me that our incident reports are public information, which I cannot imagine would ever happen, they're considered confidential criminal justice information," McMeekin said. "More than half our staff don't have access to that database because they don't have a demonstrated need to know that information."

County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg said at the moment he's "just trying to respond to (committee members') requests for what they're asking for. I do think there's a misunderstanding on their part as to what the law allows them to have, but I'm not 100 percent sure of that."

Until the committee shows him what it's receiving from McMeekin, "I'll give him the benefit of the doubt that he's right."

Angela Goodhope, the third member of the oversight panel to testify in front of the commissioners, asked that they help law officers get on board with the initiative's intent.

"We're coming to you to ask for your help," she told commissioners Bill Carey, Jean Curtiss and Michele Landquist. "Whether it's overzealous law enforcement practice due to us voters maybe asking them to change their priorities, or whether it's that people are flagrantly using marijuana because of (the initiative), we need to know this information."

Instead of resorting to legal strong-arming, Goodhope encouraged law enforcement to "open up and allow this data" as a sign of good faith.

It was the committee's third presentation to the county since the initiative went into effect in 2007.

"My sense is they want us to kind of endorse their activity and the initiative's results," said commission chairman Carey. "They wanted us to speak up and say that this was a good thing and everybody ought to be doing their best to follow their recommendations."

The report called on commissioners, the sheriff's department and the county attorney to issue updated public statements presenting their respective positions on the implementation of the lowest-priority initiative.

Van Valkenburg's office has issued such a policy, which asks law officers to stop arresting or ticketing individuals when the offense is "solely possession of marijuana in misdemeanor amounts or possession of drug paraphernalia intended for use of marijuana." But it can be rescinded at any time, the committee report pointed out.

Another recommendation is for Missoula city officials, who aren't specifically addressed by the initiative, to adopt policies compatible with the county initiative as soon as possible.

To that end, Masterson requested and received the commissioners' pledge to forward the report on to city officials. Goodhope said she has a meeting slated Thursday afternoon with Mayor John Engen, City Attorney Jim Nugent, Chief of Police Mark Muir and possibly a council member to hash out such a policy.

"I'm personally lobbying with the city to do something with more teeth to it," she said.

She said she'll come with a memo from the University of Montana law school that explains the City Council's powers to "tell the police what they can and cannot do."

"The mayor said he wants to look at a solution. A lot of people say they have problems with the lowest-priority law enforcement because they feel it's vague. But when you look at the state law and what municipalities have the power to do, (a council policy) is actually the genius answer to it all."

News Hawk- Ganjarden 420 MAGAZINE ® - Medical Marijuana Publication & Social Networking
Source: Missoulian
Contact: Missoulian
Copyright: 2009, missoulian.com, Missoula, MT
Website: Missoula Marijuana Initiative 'Ignored' By Most Of Law Enforcement


New Member
"There have been modest decreases in incidents reported by the county sheriff's department and the University of Montana, i
Incidents reported by the Missoula Police Department seem to have risen by 50 percent since the first year.

Sounds to me like the City Cops are on a mission!!!


New Member
Isn't it funny that cops who are hired to make other people follow the rules, do so less than everybody else.

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
^ its been that way throughout history. the strong of arm take advantage of the weak. humans need to evolve on many levels. Cannabis is a wonderful tool for humans to evolve. its one of the things 'they' fear.
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