The Pineapple Express Method Vs. The Not Funny Impact Of Alcohol

by lizard

Apparently 68 Montana state legislators think that, for only $100,000 dollars, they will be able to find a way for law enforcement to determine if drivers are operating under the influence of marijuana, the dangerous, schedule I drug you can now smoke legally in Colorado and Washington.

How you ask? Law enforcement will carry special electronic devices equipped to show clips of Pineapple Express; a grin is an allowable limit of THC, but anything above a slight giggle will result in an on-the-spot quick-response blood test.

Obviously, that won’t be the method, but the article at the first link is woefully short on specifics regarding the effectiveness of testing for THC in a manner that proves intoxication while driving. For example, this is all the article says about those opposing this bill:

Opponents argue that testing is unreliable and can measures agents that don’t cause intoxication, but remain in the blood stream long after impairment.

This bill will be just one of many ways in which our taxpayer money will be wasted in Helena this year (Jerry O’Neil’s spanking bill is another example)

I guess there are plenty of state legislators who want to continue their crusade against marijuana, a crusade that came after years of inaction regarding what voters ok’d in 2006, ultimately culminating in the fear-mongering campaign against medicinal marijuana during the 2011 legislative session.

In response to this useless, anti-science legislation, I’m tempted to throw my useless blogger support behind Missoula’s very own Champ and his DUI scarlet letter bill:

Sponsored by House Representative Champ Edmund House Bill No. 276 seeks to revise DUI laws by forcing offenders to inherit orange licenses plates to identify themselves while driving.

Some might compare a new DUI bill to the scarlet letter. It will brand your vehicle for five-years with orange licenses plates with the beginning letters DUI.

I don’t think public shaming is a good idea, but I do think Montana is a state with a serious drinking problem, so if we’re going to talk about driving while impaired, then we need to be talking primarily about alcohol.

In a Billings Gazette article that includes the term “DUI fatigue” in the title, a result of the last legislative session is actually credited with being effective and therefore possibly expanded. From the article:

The most notable success in 2011 was the passage of the “24/7” law that requires repeat DUI offenders to submit to breath tests twice a day, at their own expense. (Ankle bracelets that react to alcohol use are options, albeit more expensive ones, for people who live far from testing centers.)

Before 24/7, those convicted of DUI who continued to drink – let alone drive – suffered consequences only if they were caught, said Maj. Tom Butler of the Montana Highway Patrol.

With 24/7, the consequences are immediate: Skip a test, get a warrant. Blow “hot,” go to jail.

The program became law under the watch of then-Attorney General Steve Bullock, who heavily promoted it. Now governor, Bullock noted last week that of the 157,000 tests administered under 24/7 during the past 15 months, 99.7 percent showed that the offender hadn’t had a single drink.

Such results are so promising that there’s a move to apply the 24/7 concept to other crimes, such as domestic abuse, where alcohol is a frequent factor, Butler said.

“Unfortunately, alcohol is a root cause of a significant number of law enforcement calls,” he said.

Alcohol is that, and so much more.  

For some good news about a new inpatient treatment option here in Missoula, and some jaw-dropping numbers about the economic impact of alcohol abuse, click continue to read more.


This spring, Missoula will finally have an inpatient option for people suffering from addiction. The Recovery Center Missoula is scheduled to begin taking referrals sometime in April.

I was at a meeting recently where the executive director, Tammera Nauts, talked a bit about what this means for our community.

When it comes to inpatient treatment, out entire state has basically two options: Montana Chemical Dependency Center, or MCDC, which, according to the website, is “the only in-patient chemical dependency treatment center administered by the State” and Rimrock, which is located in Billings.

That’s it.

According to an informational handout that featured some staggering numbers, 10% of any given population is in active addiction. For Montana, that means 100,000 people. Between the two treatment options I listed above, the amount of beds for inpatient treatment is 98.

That’s insane.

What is even more insane is the estimated state-wide cost of alcohol abuse: $642 million dollars. This is how that number breaks down:

Alcohol induced medical care: 100.7 million
Criminal justice system: 49.1 million
Early mortality/lost earnings; disease/vehicle accidents: 296.8 million
Lost productivity: 53.3 million
Treatment costs: 10.7 million

So what can we expect from this year’s batch of legislators to address the significant impacts of alcohol abuse?

More of this?


  1. JC

    Thanks for the great writeup, liz. And yes, it’s amazing how despicable some people can be.

    As to the Recovery Center, Missoula (RCM), it is touting: “This program is dedicated to the recovery of the 250,000 Montanans affected by addiction and mental illness.”

    Yes, 1/4 of Montanans are “affected” by addiction and mental illness. The problem goes far beyond the 10% number liz quoted.

    As to inpatient treatment centers, there are a whole ‘nother slew of “inpatient” (read “criminal”) treatment centers funded by the state (and operated by the private prison industry) at a much greater cost than 76-bed, 28-45 day stay, MCDC (which takes insurance, as well as does sliding scale). Unfortunately, the easiest way for most Montanans to get access to inpatient treatment is through the criminal justice system and incarceration.

    First up: Nexus, in Lewistown, is a 9-month long, 80-bed male meth jail/treatment center ran by CCCS.

    Then there’s the state’s 47-bed 9-month long Elkhorn Treatment/Jail Center in Boulder, MT run by Boyd Andrews Community Services in Helena. There’s also a 190-bed Women’s prison in Billings that focuses on rehab.

    Let’s not forget the state’s 6-month long Watch Program, with two jail/treatment centers: a 48-bed co-ed felony DUI facility in Glendive and a 106-bed male DUI treatment/jail in Warm Springs. And then there is the 60-day, 104-bed (with a 100-150 person waiting list) affiliated CCP facilities in Butte and Warm Springs.

    So, we have a quick total of 575 jail beds solely or primarily devoted to treatment by the state. The 16 beds being added by the RCM, while significant to the individuals and families that will be served (and hopefully the 35-bed or so expansion that WMH plans in the next few years), is but a drop in the bucket.

    While there are a smattering of other inpatient public/private treatment centers around Montana (like Western Montana Health’s Teen Recovery Center, and Teen Challenge here in Missoula), the need for pre-arrest inpatient addiction services is huge in Montana.

    And out of the 575 beds reserved by the state’s Dept. of Corrections, easily that many more offenders are on waiting lists in jail to get into those facilities. If anyone (any legislators paying attention out there???) were to do the math on what those 575 bedded offenders cost the state in terms of criminal activity, rolling through the justice system, incarceration, treatment, pre-release, parole and probation officer supervision, outpatient treatment followup, etc., we’d realize that a reinvestment of those moneys into pre-arrest treatment would pay dividends to Montana taxpayers, reduce criminal behavior and arrests — and not to mention saving all the tragedy that addiction wreaks on families, friends and communities.


    • lizard19

      thank you very much for the info, JC.

      I should have explained that the 98 beds for inpatient treatment are what’s left for the general public when the beds for specified populations, like incarcerated individuals, are taken out of the equation.

      • JC

        No problem liz. I was pulling all the info for another project I was working on, anyways, so I thought I’d share some of it with folks.

  2. Big Swede

    Please tell the man I didn’t kill anyone.

    No I just trying to have me some fun.

  3. Steve W

    Gotta love John Prine!

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