Medical Marijuana Clinic Firebombed Before Moratorium Vote
Montana Therapeutics gives marijuana to about 50 people. Monday's firebombing caused about $2,500 in damage but no injuries. (Larry Mayer/billings Gazette Via Associated Press)
May 11, 2010
BILLINGS, MT – Someone threw a molotov cocktail through the window of a Billings, Mont., business that provides marijuana for medical use early Monday and spray-painted “NOT IN OUR TOWN” on its storefront, the second such act in as many days, authorities said.
The incidents come as the Billings City Council is scheduled to vote Monday night on a six-month moratorium on approving additional marijuana businesses.
A rock was used to break the glass of Montana Therapeutics at 4:30 a.m. Monday, and a beer bottle filled with gasoline was lighted and thrown inside, according to Sgt. Kevin Iffland of the Billings police. A passerby reported the fire.
Fire crews quickly put out the small blaze, Deputy Fire Marshal Trevor Schilling said.
About 5 a.m. a day earlier, surveillance video showed two young men spray-painting “NOT IN OUR TOWN” on the front of Big Sky Patient Care and throwing a rock through the front door followed by a flaming bottle, Big Sky owner David Couch said.
Nobody was injured in either instance.
Trevor McFarren, co-owner of Montana Therapeutics, said his business provides marijuana for about 50 people and has never had a problem, a complaint or even a bad phone call since opening in January, he said.
McFarren said he believes that Monday’s council vote is linked to the attack, which he said caused about $2,500 in damage.
“I’m sure they’re trying to fuel the fire about” the vote, he said. “It’s more of an attack on the community than anything.” Couch also said he has not had any complaints since his business opened in April. He declined to say how many patients Big Sky has.
“If anything good comes out of this, it will probably be a desire for more education in the general public,” he said.
Police have no suspects, Iffland said. Surveillance video may have captured what happened, but the building’s owners do not want to release the video to police until they speak to their attorney, Iffland said.
Detectives were investigating whether the acts were committed by those who oppose such businesses or by business rivals, Iffland said.
The medical marijuana trade has boomed in Montana since the Obama administration last year said it would not prosecute those cases. The state has approximately 15,000 patients — up from 800 in 2008 — and about 5,000 registered caregivers who provide them with marijuana, according to the state Department of Public Health and Human Services.
Montana is different from other states in that it has no marijuana dispensaries for patients. Instead, each patient is required to designate a caregiver who provides the pot.
The growth has exposed holes in the state medical-use marijuana law that was passed by ballot initiative in 2004, and the state legislature is hearing recommendations on changes from law enforcement, cities, schools and patients who use marijuana.
Meanwhile, Montana’s cities and towns are testing different ways to deal with commercial growers. Some have banned them from within the city limits; others are seeking ways to regulate them like other businesses. Several cities have imposed temporary moratoriums on new businesses while they figure out a permanent solution.
Billings has issued more than 80 business licenses for stores selling marijuana for medical purposes. The council will decide Monday night whether to put a six-month ban on additional stores within city limits and whether to close those that are within 1,000 feet of a school or a park.
Tom Daubert, an advocate for medical marijuana use who led the initiative campaign in 2004, condemned the attacks but also said some of the businesses need to act with more dignity.
Daubert said Montanans never voted for marijuana storefronts that advertise or commercial production centers in residential neighborhoods.
“The law needs to be modernized, with regulation and oversight designed to prevent some of the undignified and unprofessional behavior we are seeing,” he said.