Federal authorities have decided they will drop the charges pending against a teen who was charged with possession of about one gram of marijuana, after the case gained national attention in Oregon.
The Native American teenager had faced a federal misdemeanor – which carries a possible one-year prison term and a $1,000 fine – after another student was caught with the drug in his backpack and pointed to defendant as the person from whom he had purchased it. The amount of the drug found – 1 gram – is approximately enough to roll one joint, maybe two if you stretch it. In addition to the possible prison sentence and out-sized fine, the teen would have faced denial of federal student loans, public housing and government aid – for life.
Possession of marijuana has been decriminalized in Oregon. In fact, the drug has even been legal for adult recreational use in that state since 2014. But federal authorities became involved because the incident occurred at a boarding school for Native American students that is operated by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Education. That meant this 19-year-old kid, who was preparing for college in this fall, had this possible one-year federal prison term hanging over his head.
State lawmakers called for the feds to back off, saying that while use of the drug by minors certainly was not acceptable, the fact that federal prosecutors were pushing for a penalty of this teenager over a single gram of the drug was a total misallocation of resources. L.A. marijuana lawyers followed the case as it became national news recently, with features in The Washington Post and other big news outlets.
Now, it seems prosecutors have acquiesced – interesting because prosecutors often pride themselves on not bending their decisions based on the whims of the public. However in this case, it appears they did have discretion and clearly, if a case called for discretion, this was it. Plus, it probably didn’t hurt that three Oregon congressional delegates issued a public letter to the U.S. Attorney in the region, demanding that he explain his drug enforcement priorities.
The teen was a first-time offender and the amount was tiny, particularly in a state where the drug is widely available for recreational use. Prosecutors confirmed that the charges will be dropped if the teen agrees to obey the law and maintains a job for 60 days. If he meets these terms, prosecutors will move for a dismissal of the charges in early October.
His public defender called the outcome, “a fair resolution,” adding he hoped this would be the last such case to be raised by the U.S. Department of Justice.
U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), one of the first to raise ire about the case, later told the Willamette Week that while he was pleased to hear federal prosecutors were dropping the charges against this teen, he voiced concern about the fact that the charges were filed in the first place. He added that it was his hope the outcome in this case will set a precedent for the future that will steer prosecutors away from filing such cases to begin with, something Blumenauer called a “waste of time and resources.”
The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.
Feds Dropping Charges Against Native American Teenager Who Faced a Year in Jail for Cannabis, August 2016, By Leah Sottile, Willamette Week
More Blog Entries:
Teen Faces Federal Drug Charges for 1 Gram of Marijuana, Aug. 11, 2016, L.A. Marijuana Lawyer Blog