James Bowman may have painted the target on his medical marijuana operation in the Applegate Valley that led to a major bust by federal agents Tuesday, leaving 200 patients without their medicine, advocates say.
"In my opinion, he was very transparent about his operation to the point where he laid down the welcome mat," said Lori Duckworth, executive director of the Southern Oregon chapter of the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws.
Agents raided four parcels at Bowman's High Hopes Farm at 700 Upper Applegate Road, a fifth location related to Bowman on Highway 238 and a separate, 5-acre parcel on Upper Applegate, Duckworth said.
The U.S. Attorney General's Office would confirm only that the 700 Upper Applegate Road property and several other farms were involved in the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration operation.
Bowman, who did time in federal prison for growing marijuana before Oregon voters made medical marijuana legal, has been an outspoken advocate for legalization, even inviting local lawmakers to his farm in 2011.
Casey Moore, a Medford quadriplegic, said his anticipation of a good medical marijuana harvest at Bowman's farm were dashed Tuesday, along with the hopes of 200 other patients he said depended on the cannabis.
"It's a very sad day," said the 32-year-old, who was in his wheelchair at the entrance to High Hopes Tuesday afternoon. "They took it all. I'm not sure what I'm going to do."
Moore said Bowman has been consulting with attorneys. The U.S. Attorney General's Office hasn't revealed whether it will file charges against him. Bowman didn't want to be interviewed Tuesday, Moore said.
Moore has had a medical marijuana card for 11 years for chronic pain and has received his cannabis from Bowman for seven years.
"He's like family to me," Moore said.
Drug agents were at the farm from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday, searching everywhere on the property and bringing in heavy equipment to pull out the plants, Moore said.
Duckworth said Bowman was too frank in his discussions about his marijuana operation, even acknowledging that he reimbursed workers in the cultivation process and provided extra medicine to patients who helped with the trimming.
The High Hopes Farm also featured professional videos posted online that showed how the marijuana was grown.
The high-profile farm attracted the attention of the federal government, she said.
"No poking the bear," Duckworth said, explaining the expression is used as a warning in the medical marijuana community when operations attract the federal government's attention.
Duckworth said she'd heard that Bowman was growing in excess of 400 plants, twice as many as last year because of increasing demand.
She said she recommends that growers not exceed 60 plants, saying they should limit the amount to 48, which would provide enough medical marijuana for a husband and wife and for three patients each under Oregon's medical marijuana law.
Duckworth said she's concerned about growers getting greedy, attracting the attention of law enforcement.
"I am willing to work with law enforcement to protect the integrity of the medical marijuana program and stop its abuses," she said.
Duckworth said SONORML will do everything it can to find medical marijuana for patients affected by Tuesday's raid.
"Absolutely, it will leave some patients high and dry," she said.
Dawn Lovelett, a 41-year-old Tillamook resident who said she received her medical marijuana from Bowman, said he shouldn't have made statements that attracted the attention of federal agents.
"He made that mistake, and it's not fair because us patients are going to have to pay for it," she said.
Lovelett said Bowman did offer to provide additional marijuana to patients if they helped out around the farm. She said many of the patients donated their extra marijuana back to other patients who were wheelchair-bound or couldn't help out.
She said she suffers from deteriorating disk and bone disease, as well as serious stomach problems.
Lovelett said Bowman was showing her how to grow marijuana on her own. Before she can cultivate her own plants, Lovelett said she will have to find her medicine through other means.
"All of us patients are screwed and we have to go out on the streets and buy it," she said. "I'm very upset that this happened."
Mark Wisnovsky, owner of nearby Valley View Winery, said the marijuana grow sites represent a sizeable portion of the agricultural crop in the Applegate.
He said generally most growers keep to themselves, and it's difficult to gauge how large the marijuana crop is in the Applegate.
Wisnovsky said that if the state legalized the production of hemp, which is grown for fiber and other uses, the Applegate would provide an ideal climate for its cultivation based on the success with cannabis gardens.
"Sometime in the future, we could have a huge hemp harvest," he said, noting hemp is useful as a fuel, in clothing and as biomass.
LeRoy Parker, a 70-year-old neighbor, said visitors to High Hopes would occasionally stop by his house asking for directions.
Otherwise, he didn't have any problems with the farm.
"I would hear the partying," he said. "I could smell the 'rope' burning. I leave them alone — they leave me alone."
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.