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Bill Would Allow Police To Test For Marijuana In Saliva

A bill that would give police officers the ability to use a device that can detect marijuana in saliva has passed both the Senate and the House and will now hit the governor’s desk for his signature or veto.Sen. Keith Regier, R-Kalispell, sponsored Senate Bill 13, which passed the Senate unanimously on Jan. 24, and then passed the House 96-2 on March 21.

“Marijuana leaves a residual within the mouth. Currently it’s not measured for quantity, it’s measured for the presence or lack thereof. This is a valuable tool in adding an additional – we’ll call it a brick in the wall of probable cause for an officer,” Rep. Neil Duram, R-Eureka, said when presenting the bill to the House.

The bill adds to an existing state law that allows for testing to detect traces of alcohol, and adds additional measures that would permit testing individuals for active drugs through oral fluid or blood.

“Ideally the officer would make a statement that, ‘Hey I smell marijuana on your person.’ We’ll just presume that this is the one person that might not be completely honest with the officer, and say, ‘No I haven’t been smoking any marijuana.’ This test would allow them to take a sample of the oral fluid, saliva, within the person’s mouth and it would just be a litmus test: yes or no,” Duram said.

Duram said this bill and new testing has nothing to do with a person’s actual intoxication level from marijuana. He said it would simply just add a baseline of whether the drug was present or not, and that knowledge would give officers probable cause to have a blood test done to test for intoxication level.

Duram said future technology may allow for the expansion of these tests.

Rep. Laurie Bishop, D-Livingston said the bill is not a new idea, but is actually meant to correct drafting errors in previous legislation.

Main State Budget Bill

The bill that outlines Monatana’s state budget for the next two years passed the House of Representatives on a nearly party-line vote of 67-31 last Thursday, with the chair of the main appropriations committee calling it a “good balance.” But, House Bill 2 still has quite a few hurdles to clear before it near the Gov. Greg Gianforte’s desk.

Rep. Llew Jones, R-Conrad, is sponsoring House Bill 2 which holds every aspect of the state’s spending.

“We had some great discussion today and I respect everyone’s thoughts and perspective, so where do we find ourselves? Some think it’s too small and some think the budget might be too big,” said Jones, chair of the House Appropriations Committee. “As it’s proposed it represents a good balance between the taxpayers pocket book and the needs and critical services of Montana.” The Montana Legislature’s only constitutional requirement is to pass a balanced budget for the next two years. This session, the bill is more than 50 pages long and includes around $13.4 billion of appropriated money for agencies and programs across the state.

The budget was heavily debated in the House Appropriations Committee the week following the Legislature’s mid-session break. The bill is broken up into six sections that cover different areas of state government, like General Funding (Section A) or Public Health and Human Services (Section B).

House Minority Leader Rep. Kim Abbott, D-Helena, voted against the budget proposal after several amendments from the Democratic party were shut down.

“You heard that there are some really good things about this budget, there’s some bi-partisan compromises that both sides are proud of, but what I need to say is that where this budget fails, it fails in a way that’s stunning to me based on what we know families, businesses and communities are facing day in and day out,” Abbott said during a discussion following a breakdown of the budget. Abbott said not having a direct investment in affordable housing throughout the budget is a catastrophic mistake and that’s an aspect that needs to be cleaned up in the Senate.

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