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MailTribune.com
  • Raid on pot farm alarms other providers

    Local medical marijuana growers wonder if they'll be next after plants at site were cut, hauled away
  • GOLD HILL — Questions continue to swirl around a controversial federal raid of a large medical marijuana farm on Old Stage Road earlier this week.
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  • GOLD HILL — Questions continue to swirl around a controversial federal raid of a large medical marijuana farm on Old Stage Road earlier this week.
    About 30 law enforcement officials with various federal, state and local agencies served a warrant at the property Tuesday morning. The site is a large cooperative medical marijuana garden, where a handful of providers grow for people with marijuana cards.
    Law enforcement officers chopped down more than 300 plants from the grow site and hauled them away in dump trucks. The growers contend that they were within the limits imposed upon them by Oregon's medical marijuana laws.
    No charges have been filed in the case, though it remains under investigation, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Doug Fong.
    "There is no new information in this case," Fong said. "A federal investigation is continuing."
    The raid seemed to conform to guidance offered in U.S. Department of Justice memos directing federal agents to enforce federal drug laws, even in states that have legalized medical marijuana.
    A June 29 memo signed by Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole clarifying guidance for federal agents over raids in states with medical marijuana laws says they should not waste their time on individuals such as cancer patients using medical marijuana, but that "prosecution of significant traffickers of illegal drugs, including marijuana, remains a core priority."
    Allen St. Pierre, of the National Organization to Legalize Marijuana, said federal agents regularly bust medical marijuana growing sites in California and Washington.
    "They have an unspoken rule they tend to employ," St. Pierre said from Washington, D.C. "They are really looking for anything over 100 plants. If it is below 100 plants, it does not invite civil forfeiture the way large patches do."
    The fallout from the raid among Southern Oregon's medical marijuana community has been profound, said Lori Duckworth, the executive director of Southern Oregon NORML, a medical marijuana advocacy center and dispensary located in Medford.
    "Local providers are very afraid that suddenly the federal government is going to come in and arrest them, even if they are within state limits," Duckworth said.
    She added that four patients who received medical marijuana from the Old Stage Road grow site have come to her center this week looking for guidance.
    "We have provided them with medicine and listened to their concerns," Duckworth said. "Many of them don't know how to proceed from here. What they do know, is they need their medicine."
    The Drug Enforcement Administration has agents in the area questioning patients who received marijuana from the Old Stage Road garden.
    Among those contacted by the DEA following the raid was a 65-year-old Sams Valley woman who had received marijuana from the garden for the past year.
    The woman, who asked that her last name not be used, said two DEA agents approached her property a day after the raid and asked her questions about her relationship with her providers.
    "They asked if I ever gave them money for marijuana, which I never did," the woman said. "They also wanted to see my card."
    The woman said she uses marijuana because she suffers from severe arthritis and diabetes.
    "They were very respectful when I spoke to them," she said. "I asked them if I was going to get my medicine back and they just chuckled and said, 'No, it's gone.' "
    Duckworth said other legal growers have contacted her wondering if their gardens will be raided. She said the state and federal government need to provide consistency on medical marijuana, which is recognized by the state but not the federal government.
    In 2009, officials within the Obama administration said they would not spend resources prosecuting medical marijuana providers. However, raids also have been reported in dispensaries in California and Washington in recent months, according to the Associated Press.
    "I just don't know why the state and the feds don't sit down in a room together and come up with a black-and-white law that makes it clear what is legal and illegal," Duckworth said.
    Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471; or email cconrad@mailtribune.com. The Associated Press also contributed to this report.
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