Plea deal in marijuana case

Indictments on 49 charges against Medford dispensary owners dismissed; Duckworths get probation, fine
Laura "Lori" Duckworth shares a moment with friend Kristi Anderson, of Grants Pass, after Judge Lorenzo Mejia found Duckworth and her husband, Leland Duckworth, each guilty of a single count of felony delivery of marijuana, dismissing dozens of other charges as part of a plea bargain. Mail Tribune / Jamie LuschJamie Lusch

Jackson County Circuit Judge Lorenzo Mejia on Wednesday dismissed a slew of racketeering and money-laundering charges against a Medford couple related to a highly publicized raid on their medical marijuana dispensary in May 2013.

Mejia found Laura "Lori" Duckworth and her husband, Leland A. Duckworth, each guilty of a single count of felony delivery of marijuana as part of a plea bargain. A previous indictment against Lori Duckworth on another 22 charges was dismissed, and an indictment against her husband for another 27 charges was also dismissed.

The Duckworths each received 11 months' probation, after which their felony charge could be reduced to a misdemeanor.

Mejia also included in the sentence the seven days of jail time that the couple already served after they were arrested. They each have to pay a $300 fine to the court.

The state of Oregon will be allowed to keep $4,974 seized in the raids on Southern Oregon NORML and at their house.

Guns that were seized will be returned to Leland Duckworth's son for safekeeping until his father completes his probation, Mejia ordered.

Mejia allowed the Duckworths to use medical marijuana as part of the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program, but he said they couldn't grow or assist others in the cultivation of pot.

Lori Duckworth said Jackson County and Medford police invested a lot of time and effort into the case, even as laws against marijuana have lessened and evolved in recent years.

"The reefer madness generation is dying," she said outside the courtroom. "It's a drug war. It's a failed war, and my husband and I were casualties of it."

In the courtroom, Duckworth told the judge that she hopes the citizens of Jackson County urge law enforcement to concentrate their efforts more on violent crimes.

Duckworth is an outspoken activist for medical marijuana and was formerly executive director of the Southern Oregon NORML center on West Sixth Street in Medford.

Mejia said the laws against marijuana are changing, but the Duckworths violated the law.

"We have to acknowledge these acts were criminal at the time they were committed," he said. "We will see what the voters or the Legislature does."

Leland Berger, Portland attorney for Leland Duckworth, said marijuana is being legalized throughout the country.

"For me, it's an historical kind of moment here," he said. "Both of them (the Duckworths) were motivated by compassion."

He said the Duckworths often provided medical marijuana without charging for it.

Berger criticized the amount of time and money spent to prosecute a case in which most of the charges were ultimately dismissed.

The Duckworths initially faced conspiracy to deliver marijuana within 1,000 feet of a school,and manufacturing marijuana within 1,000 feet of a school. The Duckworths were later hit with added charges of racketeering, possession of substantial amounts of marijuana and money laundering.

Medford police said they seized nearly 12 pounds of marijuana, 94 plants, cash, documents, computers and edible marijuana products from SONORML. Police said they believed the money came from illegal drug sales. Police also said they seized 22 pounds of marijuana from the Duckworths' home.

Paul Moser, deputy district attorney, said his department doesn't track the cost to prosecute a particular case.

He said the plea bargain was part of a resolution among all the parties involved and helped close the case.

"They broke the law at the time," he said.

Medford police Chief Tim George said his department puts considerable time and energy into drug cases, including this one, although he didn't consider it a large case compared to others.

He said his drug unit works a lot of cases simultaneously, but it doesn't keep track of the cost of each case.

George said he supported the outcome and the justice system.

"We believe there was a crime committed, and these people committed a crime," he said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or Follow him on Twitter @reporterdm.

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