Oregon Prosecutors Refuse to Drop Medical Marijuana Cases

Prosecutors are refusing to drop their criminal cases against a number of Oregon medical marijuana dispensaries, despite the fact that a state law passed July 6 gave those operations the explicit right to exist.
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As our Oregon medical marijuana dispensary lawyers understand it, prosecutors are pressing ahead based on the assertion that the actions committed by these owners and operators were illegal at the time they were carried out, regardless of the fact that they are legal now.

House Bill 3460 establishes a legal marketplace for medical marijuana. The state, which was one of the first to legalize access to medical marijuana back in 1998, never had a system by which patients could legally obtain the drug at a storefront. Of course, as the state’s 56,000 patients today now know, growing the drug has proven a major challenge. It’s a fickle plant that requires constant care and attention, particularly if you hope to breed strands of it that will reduce certain traits (intoxication) while boosting others (appetite stimulation).

In fact, one of the cases that stirred advocates into action, a raid leading to criminal charges against the owners of Washington County’s The Human Collective, is one of those that is still on track for trial. The owners are accused of manufacturing, possessing and distributing marijuana. One is also facing child neglect, by virtue of the fact that a child was in her home at the time that marijuana was present.

As the bill was originally written, there was a clause that would have protected existing establishments facing prosecution. However, the Oregon District Attorneys Association had pushed for a last-minute change to the law to alter that wording in a way that would allow pending cases to move forward. Prosecutors say they reserve the right to prosecute any dispensary that was in operation prior to the state’s issuance of registry cards, which isn’t expected to begin until early next year.

In some cases, certain organizations, such as the 45th Parallel in Malheur County, may not have been protected even if the law had been in place before. The law holds that retailers have to remain a separation from grow sites. So far in that case, ten people have pleaded guilty to charges of distribution and/or possession of marijuana. Charges are still pending against eight others.

Some legal scholars have speculated that even if prosecutors are on technically solid legal grounds in their prosecution, the passage of this bill complicates their work because there are many people who are going to be opposed to the agency spending its resources in this way. That could in turn lead to some resistance from jurors, should this pending cases make it to trial.

Some may say that jurors don’t have the right to “judge the law.” But the reality is, regardless of what the prosecutors or judge tells them, they can and sometimes very well do.

The specific charges against these individuals is that they received reimbursement for medical marijuana above and beyond supplies and utilities. The Oregon Medical Marijuana Act, prior to HB 3460, did not allow for compensation to be doled out for any other expenses.

The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.

Additional Resources:
Prosecutions continue, despite legislation allowing medical marijuana retail outlets, July 12, 2013, By Noelle Crombie, The Oregonian
More Blog Entries:
Oregon Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Soon to be Regulated, July 11, 2013, Oregon Cannabis Lawyer Blog