Enforcement a Headache for Officers
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Enforcement a Headache for Officers
Posted by CN Staff on April 26, 2010 at 05:37:23 PT
By Kim Skornogoski, Tribune Staff Writer
Source: Great Falls Tribune
Montana --  Search warrant in hand, officers slammed a battering ram through the door of a Saint Marie home and discovered what they expected — 39 marijuana plants in various stages of growth.It was only after thousands of dollars in equipment and product were seized and destroyed that they learned Alan Edson was allowed to grow and sell marijuana for medicinal purposes.
"They proceeded to go through my entire home," Edson said. "They confiscated and destroyed my legally licensed property and my personal property. They even went through my wife's underwear drawer."State Narcotics Bureau Chief Mark Long said he wouldn't be surprised if similar incidents happened weekly in counties across the state.While the Department of Public Health and Human Services is responsible for licensing patients and medical marijuana providers under the state's medical marijuana law, the job of making sure those people follow the law is left to local police officers and sheriff's deputies.That responsibility grew as the number of legally licensed medical marijuana patients exploded from 2,000 a year ago to more than 12,000 now."If we get a tip that a person is growing plants — whether it's six plants or 600 — we have to investigate it," Long said.Valley County drug officers collected tips and evidence against Edson for nearly a year before the raid. The effort taxed the tiny police department and wasted thousands of taxpayer dollars before prosecutors dropped three felony and one misdemeanor charge against Edson last month.It cost Edson dearly, too. Between the damaged equipment and legal fees, Edson said he lost his life savings. His once retired wife returned to work to support them. He added that he doesn't have the cash to start his business again."I truly enjoy growing things. The newness of the business, this was an opportunity to get in on the ground floor," he said. "I was honestly trying to do something good."Valley County Sheriff Glen Meier said medical marijuana's visibility creates part of the problem."People see it and they smell it and they call us," he said. "Law enforcement around this country spends millions of dollars trying to control marijuana. With medical marijuana, it makes it all the more confusing."Phillips County Sheriff Tom Miller said his officers began investigating a number of cases only to learn later that the person had a "green card," or state medical marijuana card allowing them to grow or possess the drug.Police can call the state's medical marijuana program to confirm if someone is a patient or provider, but officers often start with an address not a name. It takes time to investigate and time for the state to respond to requests for information.Havre Assistant Police Chief Gabe Matosich said an officer might find marijuana on someone who claims to have a card but isn't carrying it. If it's not during business hours or if the small state staff is busy, the officer can't confirm if the person is telling the truth."It's a nightmare," Matosich said. "We see it both ways — people say they have a card but they don't — others do have a card but just not on them. It's just plum crazy."The state doesn't require patients or providers to give the address where they will be growing or selling medical marijuana. The state Department of Public Health and Human Services' website posts the number of patients and caregivers in each county, but doesn't list the exact locations or names to law enforcement.DPHHS spokesman Chuck Council said medical marijuana patients get the same privacy protection as other people who receive medication or health care. Because many caregivers also are patients, their privacy is protected as well.In its latest report, DPHHS states that Pondera County has 45 patients and 17 caregivers. Sheriff Tom Kuka said he couldn't identify any of them, except for a few people who landed in jail for other offenses and had to take Tylenol 3 instead of marijuana while they were inmates, "To be honest with you, I'm not sure where any of these growing groups are going on," he said. "If there's people that can truly be helped by medical marijuana, then I sure wouldn't want to keep it from them. But we're going through an awful lot of time and horrible expense monitoring this."Teton County Sheriff Keith Van Setten said he appreciates the few patients and caregivers that have walked in his office, showed their cards and shared their addresses."We don't want to harass these people," he said. "If I were a card carrier, I wouldn't want to suffer the consequences of an unknowing law enforcement officer breaking down my door."Groups such as the Montana Caregivers Network encourage caregivers and patients to be open about their businesses and use. But they also argue strongly against law enforcement being given a list of people using and growing medical marijuana.."There's no need for an adversarial relationship with law enforcement," Montana Caregivers network spokesman Doug Chyatte said. "A centralized list doesn't address the problem. This is not an issue of regulating a vice. This is an herbal medicine that helps many, many people."Edson kept his business quiet, concerned about gossiping neighbors, his home's security and requests from acquaintances who might was the drug illegally.By law, caregivers are limited to six plants per patient. It's the job of sheriff's offices and police departments to make sure that caregivers don't violate that limit.Van Setten said that unlike pharmacies, which have to account for every pill that comes in or goes out of their business, medical marijuana providers have no checks and balances.Long travels the state giving workshops to educate law enforcement officers on the Montana Medical Marijuana Act and its problems.Chief among them is the safety of both caregivers and patients.Last week, three Kalispell men were charged in connection with the death of a 49-year-old medical marijuana patient. While marijuana doesn't make people violent, Long said, people act violently to get it illegally, noting that a number of medical marijuana providers and patients have been robbed and burglarized."I wish I could say that'll be the only (medical marijuana-related homicide) that Montana ever sees again," he said.Montana law also isn't clear on whether patients can drive while high or how much a patient can use. Some states that allow medical marijuana forbid users from driving, while others have set a THC level, much like the blood-alcohol content level used to determine when a person is legally intoxicated.Long said it's no surprise that officers are confused — it wasn't until nine months ago that he really understood what the law says and what it's unclear on. On top of that, county attorneys and city councils each have their own take on the law."We're going to have this in Montana," he said. "Law enforcement is not getting rid of it. Let's just get something in the law that's manageable."Source: Great Falls Tribune (MT)Author: Kim Skornogoski, Tribune Staff WriterPublished: April 26, 2010Copyright: 2010 Great Falls TribuneContact: tribcity sofast.netWebsite: Medical Marijuana Archives 
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help 

Comment #21 posted by FoM on May 01, 2010 at 18:31:35 PT
I wonder about people who for no reason just disappeared. I do hope that they are ok. We know illness can happen and passing away too. 
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Comment #20 posted by Hope on May 01, 2010 at 18:24:07 PT
Nearly, in September
nine years, off and on, of commenting. I read C News for some time before I posted.So many wonderful posters over the years that we haven't heard from in a while. I'd like to hear from them. I've learned so much here. I've been encouraged here. I've been comforted here.
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Comment #19 posted by kaptinemo on May 01, 2010 at 11:51:58 PT:
Josephlacerenza, you shouldn't feel ostracized
Far from it.I've been 'here', on an off, eleven years now. A lot of times, I'd comment and no one had anything to say, one way or another. That doesn't mean that my offering was ignored. Likewise, it doesn't mean you are being ignored if you post something and you don't hear anything back.The reality is, I'm not writing these verbal blips for the reformer community. I'm writing more for the opposition. I know for a fact that they monitor the postings here, and do read them. So they get an acid eyeful when I write, a burning slash across their corneas with the most damaging thing we have: the truth.So don't feel badly if no one responds. Speak your mind, speak your truth, and let the chips fall where they will.
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Comment #18 posted by FoM on May 01, 2010 at 09:40:02 PT
I agree with Hope. Not everyone responds to posts but they are read by many. 
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Comment #17 posted by Hope on May 01, 2010 at 09:13:42 PT
Being acknowledged...
For years it bothered me, and I complained, often, about saying something on here and no body acknowledging. Nobody answering my questions or adding to my statement... or commenting back. It made me feel bad. Like no one was talking to me, like being shunned, or something like that. I hated making the last comment in a thread... like I'd killed it.Forgeddaboutit. People read your posts. We may not have a comment back or anything half intelligent to say about it... but we that read here, see it and it's not that it doesn't matter what you say... sometimes we just don't have anything to say and it's hard to give a nod of acknowledgement over the net. I've tried too. A smile (smiley face). An, "I agree", and "That's interesting".I hope things are going well for you up there and I appreciate hearing from you... even though I don't always respond with a typed answer... I see you. I know you're out there... and doing the best you can.:0)
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Comment #16 posted by Hope on May 01, 2010 at 08:58:50 PT
I see you, too!
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Comment #15 posted by josephlacerenza on April 30, 2010 at 20:24:56 PT
It means so much to have you acknowledge my existence, thanks!
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Comment #14 posted by FoM on April 30, 2010 at 19:38:52 PT
It's nice to see you and keep up the good work.
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Comment #13 posted by josephlacerenza on April 30, 2010 at 18:46:22 PT
Montana Biotech
I thought here is a good place to mention the new service Montana Biotech is now providing to the medical cannabis industry in Montana!Montana Biotech now offers, in conjunction with potency analysis, genetic screening for cannabis. Most operations must start from seed, whether a breeder or someone starting a new variety/cultivar. It can take up to a month to sex a plant. This is detrimental when you must stay within a numbers constraint, such as, here in Montana. So, what we can do is tell boys from girls in one week after germination! We can screen a population so growers can keep their numbers within the law, and still breed effectively.One can E-Mail me for more information regarding cannabis genetic screening or potency analysis at:MontanaBiotech bresnan.netor call:
406 600-6871 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              406 600-6871      end_of_the_skype_highlightingMust be a current Montana medical marijuana patient/.caregiver, or have a current medical marijuana card from a state recognizing medical cannabis.
Montana Biotech
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Comment #12 posted by kaptinemo on April 30, 2010 at 15:24:25 PT:
How simple does it have to be?
Are crude pictures required? How about words of one syllable each, spoken s-l-o-w-l-y and c-l-e-a-r-l-y?MMJ laws show how stupid and pointless cannabis prohibition itself is, by causing all these 'headaches' for LE. If it were legal once more, for everyone, then there'd be no such 'headaches'. No need for horrendously complex laws, sentencing guidelines, number-of-plants arguments, blah, blah, blah.It's really a sad commentary on the intelligence of some public servants when something that obvious flies so far above their heads they can't see the contrail.
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Comment #11 posted by ezrydn on April 28, 2010 at 05:42:36 PT:
Their Stupidity is Showing
Why are they having so much trouble with the law? All they have to do is follow STATE law, period. If they stop a driver, the first thing they ask for is a license to verify authenticity. It's just as easy with a smoker, if it's a MMJ state. Produce the authentication, license or card. And this is what they're having such a problem understanding?That would put LEOs a notch below McDonalds employees. At least McDonald's asks "Do you want fries with that?"
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Comment #10 posted by FoM on April 27, 2010 at 13:15:37 PT
MMJ Advocate Says Better Laws Needed
Medical Marijuana Advocate Says Better Laws NeededBy Matt Volz,  Associated Press Writer Tuesday, April 27, 2010 Helena, MT -- One of the leaders of the campaign to allow medical marijuana in Montana says voters who approved the measure in 2004 are now seeing consequences they never intended.Tom Daubert, who heads a medical marijuana advocacy group called Patients and Families United, says voters didn't approve the mass clinics that now travel around the state signing up patients.And he says voters did not mean to allow doctors to recommend medical marijuana to patients without a thorough examination.Daubert spoke Tuesday before a legislative committee considering how to address the gaps in state law exposed by a boom in medical marijuana users and providers.More than 12,000 medical marijuana users are registered in Montana, up from 826 two years ago.Copyright: 2010 helenair.comURL:
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Comment #9 posted by John Tyler on April 26, 2010 at 19:03:14 PT
can't figure it out
Cops can’t figure it out and making a mess of things? Maybe they need different cops or just make it easy and end prohibition altogether. 
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Comment #8 posted by nooitsmee on April 26, 2010 at 09:59:54 PT:
"If we get a tip that a person is growing plants — whether it's six plants or 600 — we have to investigate it," Long said.Really???!! Seriously??? How much investigation does it require before you go busting down doors? I'm sure there's a way to find out who has a card and who doesn't (police stations have computers, right?) before you perform a bust....something tells me these cops are really bored in MT.
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Comment #7 posted by schmeff on April 26, 2010 at 09:04:39 PT
"unknowing law enforcement officer"
That pretty much says it all.....
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Comment #6 posted by runruff on April 26, 2010 at 08:28:05 PT
"Enforcement a Headache for Officers?"
Encagement a headache for peaceful citizens!Asset Forfeiture "  "   "     "  Busting down your door   "   "  "Shot dead in your sleep  "   "   "Billions of wasted resource dollars "  "   "Starving winters while cops spend, celebrate, with your and your children's money  "   "   "Interrupting Jerry and Linda's morning coffee "  "   "
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Comment #5 posted by Hope on April 26, 2010 at 08:14:00 PT
"It's a nightmare," Matosich said.
"It's just plum crazy."He's right about that and it has been "a nightmare" and "plum crazy" for a long, long time. Not just since the advent of medical legality.All these problems, including the murder, all happened because the plant is proclaimed illegal.What's not insane about government breaking down people's doors to confiscate plants? It is insane, and it's always been insane. It's got to stop. The plant has to be made legal. The prohibition of the plant is violent and sometimes deadly. The prohibition has to end for the safety and sanity of everyone.
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Comment #4 posted by dongenero on April 26, 2010 at 07:57:36 PT
"Enforcement a Headache for Officers" - hey, I know of something that might help with that.:) Medical marijuana for Montana's headache prone police force! Ah, but for the poor Chief Matosich, the ambiguity of the law - "It's a nightmare." No chief, I think a nightmare is paramilitary forces breaking through your door and putting automatic weapons in your face while they rifle through your house.
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Comment #3 posted by Vincent on April 26, 2010 at 07:56:06 PT:
These "lawmen" complain about all the extra stuff that they have to go through to distinguish between casual users and Medical patients and their caregivers. If they stopped making Marijuana prohibition such a high priority, and stopped worrying what these hard-core anti-Marijuana extremists would say, they, the police, wouldn't be having these problems. The problem is that most of these cops, especially the big shots, are so brainwashed about Marijuana that they just don't respect the Medical Marijuana laws, and so, they act accordingly. I think that, deep down, the cops REALLY believe that they can cause a public backlash against the new law, by constantly spreading lies and exaggerations.
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Comment #2 posted by runruff on April 26, 2010 at 06:50:05 PT
"Law enforcement around this country spends...
...millions of dollars...."Why would he say that?He is not unhappy with the cannabis eradication budget in fact they are always jonesing for more money....they're cops! 
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Comment #1 posted by runruff on April 26, 2010 at 06:44:29 PT
 "officers slammed battering ram through the door&
A headline like this is not suppose to happen in America!I hope it was at least to go after some violent monster killer who deserves such a grand entry?
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