New Report: Half Of All Marijuana Arrests In Montana Are For One Gram Or Less

A new study analyzes 2007-2018 FBI arrest statistics and estimates that each marijuana arrest costs the state over $10,000

MONTANA:  New Approach Montana, the 2020 ballot campaign backing CI-118 and I-190, has published a report analyzing marijuana arrests in Montana from 2007 through 2018. The report is based on statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program and is authored by Jonathan Gettman, Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at Shenandoah University.

The report notes that, “from 2009 to 2018, Montana law enforcement officers arrested 13,715 people for marijuana offenses, 95% of them for possession.” Using figures from the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, the report also analyses the costs associated with these arrests and estimates the state spends $10,679 per arrest. The 56-page document provides detailed data tables showing trends in arrests, racial disparities in arrest rates, and arrests by counties.

Ken Linzey, a retired Montana corrections officer, commented, “This report provides the data to verify what many of us in law enforcement already know to be true anecdotally: arresting adults for marijuana is a colossal waste of resources. On top of that, we’re needlessly ruining a lot of young people’s lives — in many cases for less than a gram of marijuana. The current system simply doesn’t serve the people of Montana.”

The report’s other key findings include:

  • In 2018, roughly one out of 20 of all arrests in Montana was marijuana-related.

  • Over 80% of all marijuana arrests, including those for sales, involve seven grams or less.

  • Montanans under the age of 25 accounted for 62% of marijuana arrests in the 10-year period from 2007 to 2016.

  • The vast majority (98.7%) of marijuana violations in Montana from 2007 to 2016 were not associated with other criminal offenses.

  • In 2018 the marijuana possession arrest rate in Montana for Native Americans was 1.9 times higher than the rate for whites. For Black Montanans, the arrest rate is 5.3 times greater than for whites.

  • The report notes that individuals with an arrest record for marijuana can face long-term consequences, such as difficulties in getting a job, accessing affordable housing, and qualifying for college loans.

Why Montana Is Going Backward On Medical Marijuana

MONTANA: Gone are the flashing green neon lights advertising $200 ounces of pot. Gone are the caravans of cannabis doctors who signed up hundreds of people in a single day.

The medical marijuana business in Montana boomed after voters legalized it in 2004. At one time, this state of only a million people had almost 30,000 patients and 4,900 providers.

But the industry has been crippled by state legislators and a determined grass-roots opposition. And a state Supreme Court decision coming as early as October could all but wipe it out.

State Appeals Ruling To Block Parts Of Medical Marijuana Law

MONTANA:  The state is appealing a judge’s ruling that blocked parts of a stricter medical marijuana law passed by the legislature in 2011.

District Judge James Reynolds has twice blocked provisions that prohibited advertisement and commercial sale of medical marijuana as well as provisions that limited providers to three patients and called for reviewing the practices of doctors who had recommended medical marijuana for 25 or more patients within a 12-month period.

None of those provisions of the 2011 law have taken effect because of injunctions issued by Reynolds.

 

Judge Blocks Medical Marijuana Restrictions In Montana

MONTANA: A state district judge late Friday permanently blocked enforcement of key provisions of Montana’s strict 2011 medical marijuana law in a drawn-out legal case that began shortly after its passage.

District Judge James Reynolds of Helena permanently enjoined the implementation of certain key provisions in the law.

The provisions have never taken effect, either because of his 2011 decision temporarily blocking implementation of the law or the state stipulating it would not enforce the provisions pending a final court decision.

In his latest decision, Reynolds permanently blocked enforcement of provisions that would:

  • Ban the advertising of medical marijuana.
  • Forbid the commercial sale, for profit, of medical marijuana from a provider to someone authorized to obtain the product. The provision essentially meant that medical marijuana cardholders had to grow their own pot and forbade any payment to growers except for covering the cost of a provider’s application or renewal fee paid to the state.
  • Restrict a medical marijuana provider from assisting more than three people licensed by the state to obtain legal pot or marijuana-infused products, again without them being able to be paid.
  • Require the state to provide the Board of Medical Examiners with the names of any physician who within a 12-month period has written certification for medical marijuana for 25 or more patients. That would have triggered an automatic review of the physician’s practices, at his expense, by the Board of Medical Examiners.

Some Montana Medical Marijuana Providers Seek Tougher Regulation

MONTANA:  The medical marijuana industry in Montana came to a halt in 2011 when federal agents raided greenhouses and dispensaries across the state.

Some providers abandoned the business, but since then dispensaries have slowly been coming back – and now – some current providers are calling for better regulation.

“I think 2011 was the big change, it just exploded up until that point I think it cleaned up a lot. There’s no more people driving around with free this free that in the back of their trucks,” said Roger Petersen, who’s been running a dispensary in Columbia Falls since 2010.

“In another medical state you’d probably only see one reservoir per one room and it’d be real easy, you’d mix one big 400 gallon reservoir up, you’d feed everything, you’d harvest things all at once and then you’d be done, whereas we have to harvest one table to, two tables every week,” Petersen added.

 

Proposed Initiative Seeks To Ban All Marijuana In Montana

MONTANA: A Billings car-dealership owner has proposed a ballot measure that would completely ban the use and possession of marijuana in Montana, even for medical uses.

The proposal by Steve Zabawa would change state law to say any Schedule I drug in the federal Controlled Substances Act “may not be legally possessed, received, transferred, manufactured, cultivated, trafficked, transported or used in Montana.”

The proposal submitted to the Montana Secretary of State’s Office on Thursday aims is to eliminate the disparity between federal and state law in possessing and using marijuana, which is a Schedule I drug, Zabawa said in an email.

Montana and several other states allow the regulated use of marijuana for medical purposes, and about 8,300 medical marijuana users are registered in Montana. Two other states, Washington and Colorado, have approved recreational use of the drug, and federal authorities have not interfered.

Montana Marijuana Advocates Push Back Initiative Plans

MONTANA:   Marijuana legalization advocates are dropping their efforts to put a voter initiative on the ballot this year amending the Montana Constitution to allow recreational use of the drug, an organizer said Tuesday.

Instead, the advocates plan to focus on the 2016 elections. That might give the measure a better chance, with a broader segment of the population voting in that presidential election compared with the turnout expected for the 2014 midterms, Marijuana Policy Project spokesman Chris Lindsey said.

The Montana Secretary of State’s Office last year cleared sponsors to gather signatures in their effort to put the proposed constitutional change on this year’s ballot. It would have given adults the right to buy, consume, produce and possess marijuana.

“Very early in the process we realized the timing wasn’t right, we weren’t going to have the resources necessary to make it happen,” Lindsey said. “If donors are going to put in their resources, they want to win.” [Read more…]

Montana Marijuana Advocates Push Back Initiative Plans

MONTANA:   Marijuana legalization advocates are dropping their efforts to put a voter initiative on the ballot this year amending the Montana Constitution to allow recreational use of the drug, an organizer said Tuesday.

Instead, the advocates plan to focus on the 2016 elections. That might give the measure a better chance, with a broader segment of the population voting in that presidential election compared with the turnout expected for the 2014 midterms, Marijuana Policy Project spokesman Chris Lindsey said.

The Montana Secretary of State’s Office last year cleared sponsors to gather signatures in their effort to put the proposed constitutional change on this year’s ballot. It would have given adults the right to buy, consume, produce and possess marijuana.

“Very early in the process we realized the timing wasn’t right, we weren’t going to have the resources necessary to make it happen,” Lindsey said. “If donors are going to put in their resources, they want to win.” [Read more…]

After Steep Decline, Montana Medical Marijuana Numbers Hold Steady

MONTANA:  It was hard to avoid noticing medical marijuana just a few years ago in Montana, but a law passed in 2011 reeled in an industry that many said was out of control.

Recent data shows the number of people with medical marijuana cards has dropped from more than 30,000 to about 7,500.

The number of cardholders diagnosed with severe or chronic pain has dropped from more than 23,000 to less than 5,000, and the number of providers has plummeted from more than 4,600 to just 294.

Some even stronger restrictions in Senate Bill 423 that could effectively end the medical marijuana program are held up – for now – in court.

But the bill’s sponsor, Montana State Senator Jeff Essman (R), says the numbers are about where he’d like to see them: “You know for a program that is intended to benefit the truly medically needy, that number is about what I would expect. Number one, most Montanans are relatively happy with the way that the program is functioning now.”