No matter what you think of medical marijuana, and without making any assumptions about guilt or innocence, it's fair to say local police agencies displayed an excess of zeal in raiding local pot dispensaries late last month.
Defendants Leland and Lori Duckworth, David James Bond, 44, and Michael Robert Schanno, 40, were jailed May 24 after officers from several local police agencies raided dispensaries in Medford and Gold Hill. Each was charged with multiple felony counts of conspiracy to deliver marijuana.
In addition, the Duckworths face charges of conspiracy to deliver marijuana within 1,000 feet of a school — in their case, a private preschool on North Oakdale Avenue that opened after they established a dispensary on West Sixth Street. Proximity to a school adds stricter punishment under state drug laws.
Distributing marijuana to patients who hold a medical marijuana card is not against state law in Oregon, as long as the person doing the distributing is licensed under the Medical Marijuana Program. It is illegal, however, to sell medical marijuana for a profit. Growers and others are permitted to recover only their actual costs.
Police say the arrests capped a two-year investigation involving undercover purchases of marijuana and the use of confidential informants who told investigators that marijuana was being sold outside the medical marijuana program guidelines.
All of that may be true. The defendants in this case may be guilty of crossing the line between legal and illegal transfer of marijuana.
The way the arrests were conducted, however, suggests police went out of their way to make the process as unpleasant as possible for those they arrested.
Court records show a Jackson County grand jury issued arrest warrants in the case on Wednesday, May 22, but the raids and arrests took place two days later.
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.
Again, the defendants in this case may be guilty of selling marijuana for profit — still a felony under Oregon law. The courts will determine that.
What seems clear is that police were determined to send a message.