Monday, May 17, 2010

Police: Lack of Marijuana Rules Cause Violence

MISSOULA – Recent acts of violence linked to medical marijuana are
the result of a lack of state policy regulating the fast-growing
business, law enforcement officials in Montana say.

In the last month, a medical marijuana grower in Kalispell was killed in
a drug robbery, two qualified caregivers in Ravalli County beat with a
bat a man they thought was stealing marijuana, and two medical marijuana
businesses in Billings were firebombed, police said.

"Anyone growing medical marijuana is going to be a target because it is
a desirable commodity for illicit purposes," said Ravalli County Sheriff
Chris Hoffman. "That's it in a nutshell."

Montana voters legalized medical marijuana by passing a ballot
initiative in 2004, and the Obama administration announced in September
it would not prosecute medical marijuana cases even though federal law
lists marijuana as an illegal drug.

But law enforcement agencies say the language in Montana's law is vague.

"This is exactly what we were concerned about when the initiative passed
and we saw the proposed language," Hoffman said. "This kind of violence
is one of the first things that law enforcement as a body was concerned
about. In my opinion, the state did not go far enough in terms of
regulating this. There are just so many things they did not think about
in terms of community safety, and where it (marijuana) is propagated and

The number of registered medical marijuana patients in Montana since
June 2009 has jumped from almost 3,000 to more than 12,000.

Missoula City Council member Bob Jaffe said the recent violence is not
that big a phenomenon.

"It's a whole lot of smoke," Jaffe said. "I'm not that concerned about
it. From a municipal standpoint, it seems that there is no difference
between medical marijuana businesses and the long-standing system for
legal drug distribution that we have for pharmacies. The demand for
illicit oxycodone is much more of an issue, if you ask me. Every month
or two we have a pharmacy break-in."

Tom Daubert is director of Patients and Families United, a group that
represents medical marijuana users. He helped promote the state's
medical marijuana initiative.

"The vagueness of Montana's current law is being deliberately and
consciously exploited, and that is not what we envisioned," he said.

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