Southern Oregon Medical Marijuana Raids Were A Waste Of Tax Payer Resources
Recently, I blogged about the recent wasteful and harmful raids in Southern Oregon and am happy to update NCC readers with the news that all of those accused have finally been released from jail. The judge that set bail for David Bond and Lori & Lee Duckworth at over a half a million dollars a piece recused himself and a new judge reduced their bail. Unfortunately, Lori and Lee Duckworth are unable to have any contact with each other, the first time they have been apart for any significant amount of time in over two decades of marriage. Oregon activists have rallied around the Duckworths who have been unnecessarily targeted and treated badly, most likely because of their political activism.
The Medford Mail Tribune Editorial Board commented on the harsh treatment suffered by the Duckworths, stating, “it’s fair to say local police agencies displayed an excess of zeal”:
After a two-year investigation, police could have raided the storefronts on any day they chose. The operations clearly weren’t going anywhere.
But police chose to make the arrests the day before a state furlough day, when the courts were closed, which in turn preceded a three-day weekend. With bail for the defendants set as high as $550,000, that meant they likely would spend at least four days in jail before a bail hearing could be held.
On Tuesday, a Jackson County Circuit judge refused to reduce the bail amounts. It wasn’t until Thursday that a second judge agreed to drastically reduced bail amounts — a full week after the arrests. This in a jail where people accused of more serious crimes are set free on a daily basis.
The Medford Mail Tribune covered the bail reductions as well, noting the shock of those in attendance and the fact that David Bond’s initial bail of $200,000 was actually increased to match the Duckworths’ in a previous hearing:
Three people arrested in a series of medical marijuana dispensary raids last week successfully appealed their steep bail amounts this afternoon before a Jackson County Circuit Court judge.
Judge Tim Gerking reduced the $550,000 bail for Lori Duckworth, 50, and Leland Duckworth, 49, to $5,000 and $10,000 respectively. The bail for David James Bond, 44, was reduced from $200,000 to $5,000.
Supporters of the three gasped when Jackson County Circuit Judge Tim Barnack refused to lower the $550,000 bail holding the Duckworths in jail and bumped Bond’s bail to $550,000 from $200,000 at a Tuesday hearing.
“Judge Gerking was reasonable and even-handed,” Mansur said. “But it’s still a travesty.”
Mansur said medical marijuana supporters would continue with a planned protest at the courthouse later that afternoon.
“We will have fundraisers and more protests,” he said.
To many activists, these raids felt real personal, not just because many of us know the Duckworth from their year’s of activism, but because of the momentum of the cannabis law reform movement in Oregon. Law enforcement lobbyists know that they are losing ground and that legalization is inevitable. We have commissioned polling demonstrating that a majority of Oregonians support putting an end to cannabis prohibition and that over 80% view marijuana legalization as inevitable.
The current Oregon legislative session has been a tremendous one for the cannabis community. In previous legislative sessions, activists have had to lobby to stop dozens of harmful pieces of legislation, but this session, bills harming the cannabis community haven’t seen the light of day. The Legislature has already passed a bill adding PTSD as a qualifying condition under the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act and we are still hopeful of more positive legislation, including a bill that would explicitly legalize the actions of medical cannabis dispensaries.
Once again, the Medford Mail Tribune, as the publication has done a great job reporting on this case:
The raids occurred as lawmakers are set to consider a bill that would increase state and city regulation of marijuana dispensaries.
House Bill 3460 is expected to reach both the House and Senate floors for votes, according to its co-sponsor, Rep. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland.
“One police officer can then walk into a dispensary and see if it is within the regulations,” Buckley said. “The idea that we have law enforcement spending two years in these raids that happened is an incredible waste. Let’s regulate these things to make it easier for law enforcement to tell whether a dispensary is operating under the regulations of the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program.”
House Bill 3460 would provide bright lines for both dispensary operators and law enforcement, instead of the current law that provides too much grey area as medical cannabis growers can only be reimbursed for “supplies and utilities”. Currently, Oregon law enforcement agencies are making the determination as to what is legal reimbursement and what constitutes a violation of the law. Once law enforcement has made that distinction, they carry out these wasteful and dangerous raids and pile charges upon charges on the accused. Often the accused have children and those children are then taken away or the parents are threatened with the fact that they could lose custody of their children.
Those accused of accepting too much money from legal medical marijuana patients get raided by an armed SWAT unit, jailed, have their property ransacked and seized, the custody of their children threatened and are facing years in prison. Eventually, most get offered a deal that puts them on probation and allows them to keep custody of their children. After what they have been through, this deal sounds (reasonably) good and they accept. Unfortunately, the legal issues regarding reimbursement remain cloudy. No one knows exactly what reimbursement for supplies and utilities means under the law. Of course, soil, water, nutrients and electricity would be included. But what about the rent or mortgage? Or security measures to protect the crop? These legal grey areas could be fixed, yet the law enforcement lobby opposes legislation that would provide certainty for everyone.
Carrying out raids, to make marijuana look scary or to discredit medical marijuana activists, is one of the few tools law enforcement has left in this civil rights struggle. Fortunately, these heavy-handed tactics demonstrate the need to end cannabis prohibition. More than 70 law enforcement officers took part in a two-year investigation of the Duckworths. Seventy law enforcement officers. Over two years. Now that Oregon’s economy is struggling, citizens realize that enforcing cannabis prohibition is a futile waste of money, particularly in areas where law enforcement officers aren’t there to prevent rapes when women call 911 and officials are warning people that they “may want to consider relocating to an area with adequate law enforcement services.” And the folks aren’t in the mood to pony up more of their hard-earned tax dollars.
Women brutalized after their calls to 911 for help go unanswered. Law enforcement officials warning residents that they aren’t safe and should consider moving to another county. I can’t believe that I am even typing these sentences. Have I been transported to another country or back in time? Since citizens seem to be tired of just ponying up more and more of their hard-earned dollars to build more prisons, the time is ripe to tax and regulate cannabis like alcohol. Luckily, Oregon has a bill that would do just that, House Bill 3371. House Bill 3460 is a great start and the Oregon Legislature should pass it outright, but then they should simply refer marijuana legalization to the voters and let them have their say. A portion of the revenue generated by HB 3371 is earmarked for law enforcement and, after passage, police can spend their time battling serious and violent crime; doesn’t that make more sense than letting women get raped and urging your citizens to move?
If you would like to help these targeted activists, you can donate directly to their defense fund. Also, if you are in Oregon, fellow activists have set up fund raisers, with certainly more to come: Free the Southern Oregon Four Benefit Comedy Night on Friday, June 14th in Medford at the Lava Sports Bar Comedy Club and a Fund Raiser for the Southern Oregon Four at Plew’s Brews in Portland on Saturday, June 29th. Please check back to NCC for updates on this important case and text “ncc” to 420420 to get important news and alerts.