Pubdate: Thu, 17 Mar 2011
Source: Missoulian (MT)
Copyright: 2011 Missoulian
Author: Keila Szpaller, The Missoulian


Missoula Police Chief Mark Muir came under fire Wednesday in City
Council Chambers for lending support to a bill that would repeal the
Medical Marijuana Act - a measure embraced by voters in Missoula.

"I reviewed your testimony and I have some concerns about the things
that you said," said Councilman Jason Wiener, who quizzed the chief
and earlier noted he "could not have disagreed with it (Muir's
statements) more vehemently."

At the meeting, Muir defended his position and stood by his testimony.
He also reiterated his disapproval of the shops that opened after
Montanans approved the 2004 medical marijuana measure and the U.S.
attorney general released a 2009 memo noting the prosecution of people
using medical marijuana wasn't likely to be a good use of federal resources.

"The idea of dispensaries in the state of Montana has got to be
something we wash out of our minds," Muir said Wednesday.

In a Montana Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Friday, the chief lent
support to nullifying the 2004 Medical Marijuana Act. According to a
partial transcript of his statements in a Montana NORML blog post,
Muir told legislators that repeal would be a "very viable option given
the speed at which this problem has escalated out of control."

In his statements, he also compared the statewide initiative to the 
BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico: "Think Gulf oil spill. Think again 
when people say we can't put the genie back in the bottle, that we 
can't put a cap on this."

The comparison maddened Wiener, who said the spill destroyed habitat
in the gulf on a massive scale and cost tens of thousands of
livelihoods. He questioned whether the chief truly believes the
medicinal use of marijuana could wreak such havoc in Missoula.

"I stand by what I said. It's a matter of record," Muir

He pointed to the raids Monday where federal agents descended on
medical marijuana shops in 13 Montana cities and seized some $3.6
million from bank accounts: "Folks, we are not talking about medical
marijuana anymore. We are talking about ... criminal

Wiener shot back a question about how many seized Oxycontin pills it
would take to reach $4 million, and he wasn't the only councilor taken
aback by the chief's stance.

"I'm just shocked to hear some of his statements," said Councilman Bob
Jaffe later in the meeting.

Councilwoman Lyn Hellegaard, though, said councilors shouldn't blame
the chief himself because he got a green light from someone else: "Our
beef should be with the mayor, who authorized the police chief to go
over there."


It was Montana NORML that first sounded the alarm about Muir's
testimony backing House Bill 161. In a March 13 blog post, Montana
NORML's John Masterson questioned why the chief appeared before
legislators as a public official instead of as an individual and
wondered if he had traveled to Helena on the taxpayer dime.

It turned out Muir indeed was on the clock, but with the blessing of
Mayor John Engen. Engen later said it would have been more appropriate
to have the chief testify as an informational witness.

Muir has said he supported the repeal bill not as the only option but
as the only bill left on the table. He said he has problems with a
regulatory bill proposed by Rep. Diane Sands, a Missoula Democrat.

To make the broad Missoula support for medical marijuana clear in
Helena, Councilman Wiener offered up a resolution opposing HB161 and
"removing any doubt about the city's stance."

The draft states the Missoula City Council "opposes HB161 and any
attempts to overturn I-148 or to disallow the compassionate allowance
for the medical use of marijuana;" and "requests the Mayor direct the
City's lobbyist to oppose any efforts to repeal the citizen
initiative;" and "requests the Mayor and Administrative Leadership
Team cease the advocacy of City of Missoula employees in their
official capacity for repeal of I-148, through HB 161 or any other

The council will take up the resolution Monday at its regular meeting.
HB161 hadn't reached the Senate floor at press time, but a vote could
come anytime, so council president Ed Childers also was drafting a
letter from willing councilors to legislators.

Councilwoman Pam Walzer, who said she was disappointed the Montana
Legislature had yet to embrace a regulation instead of repeal bill,
said a resolution was important to drive home the point.

"We're not just sending a letter. We're serious," Walzer said.
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MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.