Medical Pot Sellers Will Be Prosecuted In Oregon
by Joel Connelly, June 3, 2011
Sale of marijuana in Oregon for any purpose, including medical use, is illegal and will be prosecuted, warned a tough-worded crackdown notice sent out Friday by U.S. Attorney Dwight Holton and 34 district attorneys from across the state.
“Oregon and federal law make it illegal to sell marijuana — period, end of story,” said Holton.
“The breathtaking surge in manufacture and distribution of marijuana in Oregon is putting marijuana in the hands of more and more healthy kids — and dispensaries are fueling this crisis,” he argued.
A “Notice to Owners, Operators and Landlords of Oregon Marijuana Dispensaries” spelled out in harsh Nixon-era language what appears to be a no-tolerance policy.
The Beaver State adopted, in 1998, the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act, which is designed to protect medical marijuana users from state criminal prosecution for pot possession.
But the voter-passed law “does not restrict seizure of marijuana plants, nor does it protect individuals or organizations from federal criminal prosecution” said the “Notice to Owners.”
“The sale of marijuana for any purpose — including as medicine — violates both Federal and Oregon law and will not be tolerated,” it added. “People and businesses that conduct sales of marijuana face the risk of prosecution, civil enforcement action and seizure of assets . . .”
“Prosecuting individuals and organizations involved in the cultivation and distribution of controlled substances, including marijuana, are core priorities of the United States Department of Justice.”
One name is notably absent from the notice — Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schrunk, whose jurisdiction includes Portland, the state’s largest population center.
In a letter to Holton, the Portland DA argued that “under present circumstances my understanding of the investigative priorities of local police agencies is that combating this cannot be termed a critical priority when balanced against others.”
District attorneys from Lane County, which includes the University of Oregon, as well as Washington and Clackamas Counties west and south of Portland signed the Notice.
A U.S. Department of Justice release, quoting local law enforcement, talked of an “outlaw atmosphere” and attacked medical marijuana dispensaries as fronts.
“Drug traffickers are hiding behind the medical marijuana law to protect their sham operations: We have to rein in this outlaw atmosphere before any kid can walk into a storefront on Main Street in any town in Oregon and buy marijuana illegally,” said Walt Begalu, District Attorney for Marion County (Salem) and president of the Oregon DA’s Association.
Attorney General Eric Holder, early in the Obama administration, indicated that the federal government would not make marijuana prosecution a top priority in states which have removed penalties for medical use of cannabis.
Holder, in Rhode Island Thursday, promised that the policy will be made more specific. “We’re going to bring clarity so that people understand what this policy means and how this policy will be implemented,” said the Attorney General.
The Oregon statement on Friday argued that its threats and warmings are “in keeping” with the guidance offered by Holder.
“That guidance articulates the Department’s balanced approach, which effectively focuses the limited federal resources on drug traffickers and organizations as opposed to individuals with serious illnesses who use marijuana as part of a recommended treatment . . .,” it said.