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A report released Wednesday suggests a jump in marijuana offenses in Missoula County compared to last year, despite the passage in 2006 of Initiative 2, the "marijuana initiative," which made adult misdemeanor marijuana offenses the County's lowest law enforcement priority. But the initiative never gave any direction to municipal government, says the Chief of Police. "They're blatantly accusing the city of a rising emphasis on marijuana, which is absolutely not true," he said.

Missoula Marijuana Arrests Up, Report Suggests

A report released Wednesday suggests a jump in marijuana offenses in Missoula County compared to last year, despite the passage in 2006 of Initiative 2, the “marijuana initiative,” which made adult misdemeanor marijuana offenses the County’s lowest law enforcement priority.

Marijuana incidents in the City of Missoula, the County and on the University of Montana campus are up 27 percent, the report estimates; 63 percent in the city alone.

The numbers are stark enough for the Community Oversight Committee that compiled the report (PDF) to conclude: “The voters’ recommendation is apparently being ignored by most of the officials in a position to heed it.”

John Masterson, chair of the committee and director of Montana NORML, says it should be disappointing to the 55 percent of voters in Missoula County and the 80 percent of voters in some city precincts that voted for the initiative.

But no matter the vote margin, Missoula Chief of Police Mark Muir says nothing’s being ignored — it’s a county, not city, initiative. “The initiative itself never gave any direction to municipal government. Period.”

“(The Committee is) blatantly accusing the city of a rising emphasis on marijuana, which is absolutely not true,” he said.

So then why have the number of marijuana offenses increased? One theory, to which both Masterson and Muir subscribe, is that some people are more flagrant in their pot smoking because they wrongly believe the initiative protects them within the city.

“There is a fairly significant number of people who have ignored and failed to recognize all along that you couldn’t just decide to possess marijuana in city limits like you could outside the city limits,” Muir said, “which I think could have led to higher instances of marijuana use.”

But Muir contends that the actual increase isn’t as high as the report suggests. The Department’s year-to-date data show a 16 percent increase in total drug charges reported, which is unlikely to support the Committee’s estimate of a 63 percent rise in marijuana incidents.

Muir also points out that there has been a notable increase in disorderly conduct arrests (up 52 percent) and adult liquor law violations (up 177 percent), both of which “typically involve street contacts and could easily suggest a hypothesis that we are finding more persons who happen to be in possession of marijuana or paraphernalia when they are stopped for other offenses.”

But peruse through the cases and you’ll see police officers are looking awfully hard for marijuana, Masterson says. He cites one case where pot residue was lifted from a vehicle console with white tape, and another in which a man was busted with less than a hundredth of a gram.

“It’s my contention that they could focus on the primary offenses,” Masterson said. “There’s no compelling moral force that says you must also shake ‘em down to find some pot.”

The report acknowledges that the data are “imperfect, and so drawing comparative conclusions may not be sound.”

Indeed, Muir says. “My statistics teacher over at the University’s criminology department would have handed the report back to me with a big fat ‘F’ on it.”

About Matthew Frank

Comments

  1. Winning the Drug War says:

    Who is wining the drug war? Drugs are…We’ve spent $22.5 TRILLION dollars on the war on drugs since Nixon started it. Are there less drugs on the street? Are the drugs less potent? Are the drugs harder to get? Wish you had that $22.5 TRILLION back? Legalize and tax. Prohibition doesn’t work. If someone wants to sit on the couch, smoke, eat chips, laugh at the TV (and everything else)…what’s the harm? If they leave the house while stoned, then you may have a behavior problem that needs to be addressed. When the penalties for a “crime” are worse than the act itself…If you take everything away from someone, then you have someone with nothing to lose. Someone with nothing to lose is the most dangerous person in the world. Think about that all you alcohol fueled, drug warriors. Hypocrites!!!

  2. jedediah Redman says:

    Quit whining.
    Just stop into your nearest package liquor store to drown your sorrows.

    But don’t drink and drive.

    Nobody likes a stupid stoner; but we all love mean drunks…

  3. BuffaloBill says:

    The people have spoken and the government refuses to listen.

  4. 3-7-77 says:

    From my understanding the Missoula Police were furious, when this initiative past and already found the loop holes around the initiative. I don’t think its fair, however their the police we have to respect them. The only thing we can do is write and complain to the city council and report unfair violations, and hope that though them the law enforcement in Missoula well be forced to do what the law stats. Without throwing its citizens for a loop.

  5. Raymond W. Ware says:

    Mankind has always enjoyed altering his perceptions of reality from the moment of the discovery of fermented fruit. Now we smoke marijuana. We think it makes life more interesting and fun. We always will.

  6. Chet Wise says:

    Marijuana is safer than alcohol, and it should be treated the same way.

    I sometimes think that maybe the cops losing some of their authority might be more of an issue than any real safety concerns. We are allowed to self regulate a drug which is a cause of more crime than potentially any other substance, but we aren’t allowed to make the safer choice and use a drug which is not only safer to the individual, but to society as a whole. When is the last time you ever heard of someone who was stoned doing the kind of stupid things you hear about drunks doing.

    In light of most of the reasons people argue against legalization and regulation, shouldn’t alcohol really be the illegal substance here?

    Why does the government drive us to drink by not allowing us to make the safer choice?

    Chet

  7. Justin Michels says:

    It seems pretty obvious that the cops are worried about losing a substantial portion of their funding when the War on Drugs finally comes to a close. And who can blame them? These men and women built careers in a dangerous profession with the intent of protecting public safety and welfare. We owe them a debt of gratitude despite the idiocy of the infamous drug wars, instead they might get kicked to the curb when funding runs out.

    The problem is that there are still plenty of REAL CRIMES going on all around us which need to be fully investigated and to be stopped. Why not turn the vice squads into white-collar detectives, and help reclaim this country for those of us who work for a living?

    By the way, anyone interested in helping put a complete and final end to the failed prohibition laws of the twentieth century ought to sign up with, and possibly even donate to Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. (www.leap.cc) They are all former, and present, drug warriors–cops, judges,… who now give speeches and work to inform their brethren that “drugs” are a health problem, and treating them like a criminal problem only makes things much, much worse.

    So, tell all your friends: the War on Drugs is over, which means our brave and dedicated law enforcement officers can now begin to reign in what John Perkins’ calls the “Corporatocracy.” And if you have never heard of Perkins’ then look up the words “Economic Hit Man” (EHM). His former job offers up plenty of proof that we have no shortage of criminals still running amok.

  8. >should i tell you?< says:

    i agree with the drug war dude person thingy…. what IS the harm? alcohol is obviously way worse then marijuana, i mean do you see stoners out killing people with out really realizing it? what is so bad about someone wanting some fun after a stressful day or just to relax after work? i mean what is the worst thing…. maybe eating to much <-lol. but seriously marijuana is like cookies compared to alcohol. and what is with the “gate-way drug” thing? you need that kind of disposition, and most of the time it only happens to people trying to look cool by going “hardcore” for their friends.