Bill Would Decriminalize Possessing of Marijuana

Bill Would Decriminalize Possessing of Marijuana
Posted by CN Staff on March 10, 2009 at 17:58:35 PT
By Kahrin Deines, Associated Press
Source: Associated Press
Helena, MT -- Legislators are considering a bill that would decriminalize adult possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana in Montana, instead making it a civil violation to hold smaller amounts of the drug.House Bill 541, introduced by Democratic Rep. Brady Wiseman of Bozeman, would allow for a civil penalty of $100 for adults caught holding 30 grams or less. Current law allows a criminal misdemeanor charge for holding anything under 60 grams of marijuana, with a fine up to $500 and jail time up to 6 months.
The proposed law would also apply to marijuana paraphernalia carried by adults.Wiseman says studies indicate decriminalization could save the state thousands of dollars in enforcement costs, and reduce marijuana use in Montana."The opinion that somehow decriminalization results in higher rates of use is flat wrong," Wiseman told members of the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.Legislative services estimates the proposed law would save the state's Office of the Public Defender about $44,000 a year in legal costs. But savings could be substantially higher if law enforcement costs were included in the tally, said the bill's supporters.Marijuana enforcement laws were softened in Missoula County in 2007, after voters approved the change in a ballot initiative. The county's rules now ask law enforcement officers not to arrest adults who are carrying under 60 grams of marijuana. They also instruct prosecutors to make charging marijuana misdemeanors a low priority.But the most recent impact report from a citizen committee that was also created by the initiative claims law enforcement in the county has generally ignored the new arrest guidelines."Our current marijuana policy in Montana is an expensive government program that harms people and is ineffective," said John Masterson, chairman of the citizen oversight committee.Other counties throughout the United States have also issued what are known as deprioritization rules regarding the arrest of adults holding marijuana, and 13 states have decriminalized carrying small amounts of marijuana to some degree, according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML)."Once police get over their first opposition and phobias, which is in general the reaction, they pretty quickly realize it's functional," said Allen St. Pierre, director of NORML.The Montana Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, the Montana County Attorneys Association, the Montana Association of Chiefs of Police and other law enforcement groups testified in opposition to the bill."We believe that decriminalization of marijuana in any amount sends a message statewide that marijuana is not a harmful drug," said Jeff Jergens on behalf of the Montana Narcotics Officers Association.Putting limits on enforcement could also have the dangerous effect of reducing marijuana's price in Montana, and complicate preventing marijuana DUIs, opponents said."You can argue that it's harmless, but we've also proved that it impairs your ability to drive," said Jesse Slaughter, spokesman for the Montana Police Protective Association.Supporters, though, say current law leads to charges that permanently mar a person's record and carry harsh punishments that are out of scope with the crime."The way that this is enforced, there are all sorts of people that you know and love that use marijuana recreationally like you may use martinis or a glass of wine, and they are functioning adults," said Scott Crichton, executive director of the Montana American Civil Liberties Union.The Montana Citizens for Responsible Crime Policy and Patients and Families United, a support group for medical marijuana patients, also testified in favor of the measure.Source: Associated Press (Wire)Author: Kahrin Deines, Associated PressPublished: March 10, 2009Copyright: 2009 The Associated PressCannabisNews -- Cannabis Archives
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Comment #4 posted by EAH on March 11, 2009 at 01:27:28 PT:
Endless hand wringing
"You can argue that it's harmless"Since when is harmlessness the guiding principle? Football is not harmless, nor
countless other activities. Blind and idiotic. Just how good or bad isn't the issue.
Which also is true for all illegal drugs. Health issues aren't criminal justice issues."current law leads to charges that permanently mar a person's record and carry harsh punishments that are out of scope with the crime."WHEN WILL THEY GET IT, THAT IT IS NOT REALLY A CRIME? Theft is a crime.
Murder, Rape, etc those are crimes. Ingesting herbs is not. The Montana law
is still legitimizing the "crime" concept. Why even bother with a "civil" penalty.
I can't believe how cowardly people are in being honest and real.
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Comment #3 posted by itsonlyaplant on March 11, 2009 at 00:35:35 PT
OHHH   NOOOO!!!!!!!!!!
"You can argue that it's harmless, but we've also proved that it impairs your ability to drive," said Jesse Slaughter, spokesman for the Montana Police Protective Association.As opposed to....uh....alcohol a completely LEGAL substance(YEAH THATS RIGHT I SAID SUBSTANCE) which has a MUCH MUCH MUCH higher rate of DUI than does cannabis. I don't know about other people and I hate to speak out of turn, but, I know every time I've EVER embibed the herb I NEVER even wanted to drive and I know PLENTY of others who feel the same way I do. I mean cannabis doesn't make you loosen up the same way alcohol does (or at least not me). I agree, no one should drive a motor vehicle (or bicycle for that matter) under the influence of ANY mind altering substance. That being said, this guys reason for keeping cannabis illegal because it will cause more DUIs is just beyond the realm of stupidity. Oh wait... he's from the Police Protective Association, I see, he's protecting police jobs...THATS it...AHHHHHH, how stupid of me, it is all so clear to me now.Oh well. Rant over.
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on March 10, 2009 at 19:52:39 PT
Medical Marijuana Bill Takes Another Step Forward
By Tim Pugmire, Minnesota Public RadioMarch 10, 2009St. Paul, Minn.  A bill to allow the medical use of marijuana in Minnesota has cleared another committee in the state Senate.The Senate Health and Human Services Budget Division advanced the measure today on a divided voice vote.Under the bill, doctors could prescribe marijuana to qualified patients for the treatment of a debilitating medical condition.Sen. Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing, the bill's chief author, says patients could buy marijuana from registered suppliers, or they could grow their own. But Murphy said the state would not test the strength of those plants."I don't know how you answer the question of content, THC content, of the product without testing every plant that's grown," said Murphy. "I don't think that is a responsible thing for us to do. One, the cost would be astronomical. Two, you don't need to because once again, this is not one of those heavy narcotics that kills people."The same bill is also advancing in the Minnesota House. But Gov. Tim Pawlenty has said he remains firmly opposed to the measure.Copyright: 2009 Minnesota Public Radio
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Comment #1 posted by ekim on March 10, 2009 at 18:45:58 PT
from for Selling Medical Marijuana
Charlie Lynch Faces Jail Even Though Medical Marijuana Is Allowed Under California Law
March 10, 2009 
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