Bigger is not always better

Large-scale medical marijuana farms attract unwanted attention from the feds

It's no secret that federal drug agents are not fans of Oregon's medical marijuana law. And it's clear they have a special interest in particularly large growing operations.

Growers of medical marijuana should take a lesson from what has happened to their colleagues and keep a low profile.

Growers are safe from prosecution by state authorities as long as they do not exceed strict limits on the number of patients they can grow for, the number of plants they can raise per patient, and the amount of usable marijuana they produce. But the state law makes it clear it does not protect growers from federal prosecution.

Federal law still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug, on a par with heroin and LSD, and federal authorities have made it clear they will go after people they believe are selling Oregon-grown marijuana illegally under the cover of the medical marijuana system.

The latest farming venture to run afoul of the feds is High Hopes Farm in Ruch, which was among several locations Drug Enforcement Administration agents raided on Tuesday. Agents, assisted by Oregon State Police and Jackson County sheriff's deputies, hauled away dump-truck loads of marijuana plants.

The raids, which come just as the fall harvest season approaches, follow a pattern that has become familiar in Southern Oregon. Agents are focusing on large-scale operations they allege are producing more marijuana than is allowed under state law and some of it is finding its way out of the state, where it can bring top dollar on the black market.

James Bowman, who operates High Hopes Farm, has made no secret of his support for complete legalization of marijuana, and told The Associated Press this spring he planned to plant 400 plants for 200 patients. He may well have been operating within the limits of the state law, but now that the DEA is involved that's a moot point.

Medical marijuana advocates told the Mail Tribune they believe Bowman was too vocal and attracted federal attention with his public statements and the size of his operation. Growers operating legally who want to continue should be watching carefully and keeping a low profile.

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