Law Enforcement Fails to Respect Medical Marijuana Laws

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), December 28, 2009 | Go to article overview

Law Enforcement Fails to Respect Medical Marijuana Laws


Byline: GUEST VIEWPOINT By Brian Michaels

Oregon's Medical Marijuana Act was enacted by voters in 1998. Since its inception, it has faced a determined rejection by many members of law enforcement.

For example, in one county the sheriff informed me respectfully, in a matter-of-fact tone, that his county does not recognize medical marijuana laws.

Although such attitudes are far from uniformly adopted by law enforcement in Oregon, a significant number continue to target medical marijuana participants in a veiled attempt to convince Oregonians that this program needs to be dissolved.

Such institutional disregard for laws of our state undermines the rule of law we so proudly hale in this nation.

On Dec. 6, The Register-Guard published two front-page articles expressing law enforcement views of the medical marijuana law. One article, "Legal haze," decried abuses by card holders. The other, "Authorities avoid marijuana busts," describes law enforcement's despair about distinguishing illegal growers from legal ones.

As an appointee to the state's Advisory Committee on Medical Marijuana, I am an attorney who represents those prosecuted under medical marijuana laws. While experiences across the state vary wildly, the vast majority of arrests come not from sales or commercial operations, but from technical violations inherent within the law.

Currently, state law allows a patient or grower to have 18 marijuana seedlings, plus six mature plants. A seedling is a plant 12 inches or less in height or width.

The 12-inch number is rooted neither in the science of botany nor in the practical realities of growing marijuana. It is merely a random number imposed on growers, creating for law enforcement a uniquely perfect loophole - one used to create, rather than avoid, criminal prosecution.

Contrary to law enforcement's assertions, it is extremely rare for an investigation to have as its source a documented sale of medical marijuana. Instead, what triggers most arrests is possession of too many "mature" plants (more than 12 inches). Possessing a few too many plants overall accounts for most of the remaining arrests.

In one criminal case spotlighted in the "Legal haze" article, an address was transcribed erroneously on a medical marijuana card, resulting in arrest. These types of technical violations result not only in loss of medical marijuana, but loss of liberty, property and sometimes children.

As a member of the ACMM, I have tried through our rules committee to correct this 12-inch rule problem. …

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