Missoula City Council: drunk and stoned again

by Pete Talbot

Not really. But Ward 3 Councilman Bob Jaffe employed his wry wit to kick off a serious discussion of Missoula’s marijuana laws.

This morning we started the day at 8:00 am with alcohol and marijuana. First we approved the purchase of a bunch of field sobriety kits, motorcycle and in-car video camera systems, and funding for the underage drinking prevention program … “

Jaffe then went on to explain that Initiative 2, which was passed by Missoula voters in 2006 and was meant to make possession of small amounts of marijuana a low priority for law enforcement, didn’t affect city (or university) police.

And he gave a well-reasoned explanation as to why this initiative should also apply to city law enforcement. First, his entire comment is below the fold. Second, at the end of his comment, he has a cool map you can click on that shows how Missoula’s precincts voted on this initiative. Third, and I don’t know how many times I’ve said it, if you’re interested in Missoula politics, you have to subscribe to this site (which covers city council committee meetings and other city business).

From Councilman Jaffe:

“Our next item was a consideration of the implications of Initiative 2 that passed in 2006. This was the initiative that made enforcement of marijuana violations the lowest priority for law enforcement in the county. Technically this only applies to county government. So it applies to the sheriff’s department and the county attorney. It does not apply to the Missoula City Police or the University Police. Even though these entities operate entirely inside the county, they are distinct jurisdictions and the county initiative does not apply to them.

Police chief Mark Muir pointed out that misdemeanor marijuana violations have never been a priority for the city police and marijuana arrests are almost always secondary violations. That means that someone is being arrested for something else and marijuana is discovered during the arrest or when they arrive at the jail.

This initiative passed overwhelmingly in the city of Missoula. In ward three precincts it received between 70 and 85 percent of the vote. It is easy to see how the language of the ballot would be understood by the lay person to apply to all jurisdictions in the county, including the city police. We discussed what the implications would be if we adopted something like this in the city. Mark explained that the police would still be bound by state and federal law and would have to make the arrest and do all the associated paperwork even if the violation went to the bottom of the priority pile for prosecution never to be seen again by the attorneys office. So it wouldn’t really be any savings in police time to free them up to chase real criminals like the initiative proponents suggest.

John Masterson and Angela Goodhope were there from the Initiative 2 Oversight Committee. They made the case for applying the initiative within the City. I am very much in favor of this. My take is that for whatever reason most people like to get high. The vast majority do it responsibly. They have a beer or glass of wine at the end of the day. Some people choose to smoke pot. It really isn’t that big of a deal. It is true that In some cases people develop addiction or other substance abuse issues. I see this as a problem but not a criminal problem. It is also an easy argument that alcohol is a much more dangerous and destructive choice than marijuana. For some reason drinking alcohol to the point of killing yourself is perfectly legal but possessing even the smallest amount of marijuana is illegal.

The consequences of being convicted of marijuana use or possession are huge. Besides the possibility of jail time, a person can lose their job or become ineligible for student loans and employment in numerous fields. That is plain insanity. I think we should pass a resolution establishing that marijuana use, possession (in small quantities), and paraphernalia possession should be the lowest law enforcement priority in the city. We should also be clear that this lowest priority actually applies to the police officers as well. Lower than checking the tire pressure or looking at their watch. It should be ignored. I don’t buy the argument that since it is a law they have to enforce it. When we recently discussed the cell phone driving ordinance we were asked to be clear on how we wanted it enforced. Decisions about what level to enforce various laws that are on the books happen all day long.

My guess is that a resolution will be drafted and come back to committee in the near future. I wouldn’t mind seeing it go on the ballot either but it does not really seem necessary considering the outcome of the last vote. The precinct map from the initiative is actually pretty interesting. If I were going to try to draw up a map showing the progressive and conservative leanings of the city this would be the map: http://i2files.montanadrugpolicy.org/MSLA2006-02_Map.pdf

  1. Ayn Rand

    It’s against the law you ding bats!! You haven’t legalized it YET.

  2. That’s a mere matter of vote, wingnut!! The people have spoken ALREADY.

  3. Ayn Rand


    You’ve had to many bowls!!

    “The people have spoken ALREADY.”

    Apparently the courts and law enforcement haven’t.

    • Would it be better if we set up a pro-corporate infrastructure first, and then legalize it?

      Would that work for you?

      • Be fair J-Girl,

        What Ayn meant to say was “We should lower taxes and buy more guns.” She also, I’m assuming, meant “too” and not “to”.

        • Recovering Catholic

          Praised be the Dugz

          Blessed is the Dugz

          Dugz be PRAISED!!!!

          May God bless the Dugz, for the Dugz is Holy.

        • God

          Yes, I hereby bless the Dugz.

          You may go in peace and be blessed my son, for you are the Dugz.

          • I see even God agrees with me.

            It is a good day.

          • reality

            yeah…cause “God” doesn’t have anything better to do than comment on a Montana blog….

          • God

            Reality, how DARE you question God’s authority!

            I’ll have you know the blogs are a new message vehicle that I find very effective. Last time I wanted to speak to you ignorant humans, I had to hand over my only begotten son, and he had to walk all over creation in sandals without so much as a hotel reservation or cell phone.

            With these blogs, there’s no sacrificing my only begotten sons, and I can spread messages to humans across vast distances without ever so much as forcing an angel to assume human flesh to walk around. They stay up here in heaven with me, and we play X-box all day.

            So, reality, you are hereby ordered to feel verrrrry guilty, repent, and go confess something sinister to a male religious authority figure very soon.

            You must also give donations.

            Dugz be praised.

          • god 2.0


            being omnipotent and omnipresent in the digital age has its benefits. yes, i can blog in montana and bring miracles to the orion nebula at the same time!

            infinite memory in my omniscient parallel processors allow me to multi-task and run concurrent processes in zero seek time. infinite tasks completed in zero time–such be my miracles here on earth.

            so there you have it. blogging @ 4&20 and providing god 2.0’s will to progressives is working out just fine right there alongside with god ca. 1859 providing the will for the secessionistas.

          • reality

            to “God” and the 2.0 counterpart. It seems that you are a wee bit sensitive to how you spend your time. While I have no qualms with you infiltrating cyberspace I just hoped that your infinite wisdom would come down on some more urgent matters, like health care for example rather than praising a Missoulian for calling out a capitalist wannabe posing as Ayn Rand on his/her poor grammar.

            So if you really are God than please please give us some guidance on where we need it. Health Care, a rotting economy, genocide, poverty, etc. Or at least use your infinite powers to make grammar easier for us mortal bloggers.

          • reality 2.0

            And “God”.. regarding the donations. I will give and I will give plenty. But to organizations that actually do something. So that way I can sit back sipping on my latte surrounded by my post-modern texts that have enlightened me to understand an existence that does not include a necessity for you. By giving online I can also multi-task.

          • God

            I’m terribly sorry reality.

            I was not aware we had a poverty problem.

            We have been playing alot of X-Box.

            I will get on that soon.

            Dugz be praised.

          • reality

            the better question is still who is “God”

          • Jesus Christ

            Jhwygirl, I believe when my father said “Dugz,” he was referring to the noble apostle, Patrick Duganz, who is holy and wise.

            For it with the Dugz that my father’s grace and blessing be praised.

            Dugz be praised.

            Peace be with you my brother Dugz.

            Also, I will be coming back soon, and the republican party is going to have some things to answer for. Like de-funding CHIP.

            Jesus loves the children.

            Dugz be praised.

      • goof houlihan

        The Noodly Appendage would clear all these pretenders outta here

  4. so how many bowls have you smoked ayn? i hear that chronic pot smokers get real cranky…and i notice you are always pretty cranky…mean-spirited, ignorant and small minded…does that about cover your main attributes?

  5. getting back to the gist of the post…i guess it is a lot safer to chase small time pot users than to try to keep businesses safe* from chronic ongoing and increasingly dangerous gun and knife point robberies late at night.

    i guess mr muir has his priorities and the people’s priorities don’t interest him much.

    i know some parents of scared teenagers who work at dairy queen who would like to see some priorities rearranged…

    *suggestion #1-
    like maybe drive the cruisers around rather than keeping them parked all safe and sound in the city parking lots at night…as for the days well, any missoula citizen who opens his eyes can see that ruby’s and the press box are well covered from dawn to dusk…..

  6. Oh, also — that cool map was created by the county GIS team for the county attorney’s presentation in 2007 concerning amending the initiative to only apply to misdemeanor marijuana activity.

    The same color-coded map could be produced for any vote.

  7. ricardo

    So does this mean that if 420 festivities were held outside the city no one would hear a tree fall?

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