Lori Duckworth applauds the recently passed bill that legalizes Oregon's medical marijuana dispensaries and allows owners to recoup costs for providing cannabis to patients.
But the bill won't stop a case charging her and three others, including her husband, with operating illegal dispensaries from going forward, according to local prosecutors.
Jackson County Deputy District Attorney Ginger Greer, who prosecutes narcotics cases involving the Medford Area Drug and Gang Enforcement team, said that House Bill 3460 will not affect the case against the dispensary owners arrested in the May 23 raids.
"The bill is not retroactive," Greer said.
Greer added that police acted on information suggesting the dispensaries were selling marijuana for a profit, which is a felony under Oregon law.
Lori and Leland Duckworth, who operated the Southern Oregon chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws at 332 W. Sixth St., Medford, for four years, were charged with 11 counts each of conspiracy to deliver marijuana within 1,000 feet of a school, and 11 counts each of manufacturing marijuana within 1,000 feet of a school. A small private school is located about two blocks from the SONORML office.
Prosecutors also added charges of a single count each of racketeering, three counts each of money laundering and a single count each of possession of substantial amounts of marijuana in excess of 150 grams, said Leland Duckworth's attorney, Leland Berger.
David James Bond, 44, of Puffin' Stuff in Medford, faces eight counts of conspiracy to deliver marijuana within 1,000 feet of a school and a single count of racketeering and money laundering.
Michael Robert Schanno, 40, owner of The Green Compass and The Compass, was charged with four counts of conspiracy to deliver marijuana, four counts of conspiracy to manufacture marijuana, delivery of marijuana and manufacture of marijuana.
All have pleaded not guilty to the charges.
According to a story by The Associated Press, Gov. John Kitzhaber will soon sign the bill creating a legal marketplace for medical marijuana for an estimated 56,000 Oregon patients.
State prosecutors included an amendment in the bill that allows prosecution of cases such as the one against the local dispensary owners before the state issues cards for dispensaries next year, the AP reported.
Greer did not comment on whether the local dispensaries were operating in the conditions set forth by House Bill 3460.
According to the state's website, if the bill is signed into law, dispensaries will be able to charge for medical marijuana to recoup costs for testing, packaging and replacing supplies needed to operate a dispensary. This includes covering the cost of rent and mortgage payments.
The law will allow the Oregon Health Authority to inspect dispensaries to see whether they are operating under the law. Dispensary owners will pay $4,000 per year and will be subject to criminal background checks prior to opening.
Medford police Chief Tim George opposed the bill, saying that it would not stem the flow of medical marijuana to the black market.
"You are still going to have a lot of excess marijuana around and what are they going to do with it?" George said. "It's worth so much money and the temptation still exists to sell it all over the country, which is what we've seen happening for the last several years."
Duckworth said she operated her dispensary under the guidelines of the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program and hopes that she will be allowed to reopen an office somewhere in downtown Medford. SONORML was booted by its landlord from its location on West Sixth Street earlier this month.
"We hope that (House Bill) 3460 will allow us to provide this medication to patients without interference from police," Duckworth said. "We have no interest in breaking the law."
Regardless, the Jackson County District Attorney's Office is continuing to build a case against the Duckworths and the others arrested May 23.
All four are expected to appear in Jackson County Circuit Court for a hearing on Aug. 12.
Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-76-4471 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.