Thursday, December 23, 2010

Missoula's "marijuana mutiny" reverberates

Posted By on Thu, Dec 23, 2010 at 1:30 PM

Gwen Florio's story in the Missoulian about the so-called "marijuana mutiny" in Missoula County District Court last week has inspired dozens of posts around the web pointing to the near jury-nullification as further indication of an increasingly liberal attitude toward the drug.

The New York Times is the latest to write about the incident, and its story includes this bold statement:

John Masterson, the founder and director of the Montana chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said smoking marijuana “is essentially a mainstream activity” in Missoula.

“It’s something that people of all walks of life enjoy responsibly,” Mr. Masterson said.

Other outlets to cover the story include the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Atlantic and Slate.

Allen St. Pierre, director of NORML, says potential jurors nearly nullifiying a case because many of them refused to convict someone for possessing a small amount of marijuana suggests Montanans have rediscovered their right to buck an unjust law.

“Going back to the founding of this country," he tells the Indy, "if [someone is] sitting in judgment of fellow citizens, you as a juror always have the right and responsibility to either convict or not convict them—and not convicting them you can do if the law itself is a bad law, if it doesn’t make any sense."

St. Pierre adds: "It’s demonstrative of the fact—and this is what the governor and the attorney general and many elected politicians...will want to pay attention to with their finger in the wind—that if juries will not convict people of these sorts of charges, it really does bring the entire system to a halt. It speaks to an incredible institutional disconnect where the system says, ‘We can arrest you, we can prosecute you, we can bring you right up to the precipice of being incarcerated, but even though you are guilty of the crime, per se, you are not going to be convicted.’”

The Missoula County Attorney's Office declined to comment on whether it anticipates the "mutiny" affecting future cases.

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