Pot raids will target trafficking, not patients, U.S. attorney says

The Associated Press /

PORTLAND — The federal government pursues outlaw drug traffickers in Oregon, not patients in the state’s medical marijuana program, U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall has told medical pot advocates.

A meeting she had Wednesday marked the first time an Oregon U.S. attorney has met with the advisory committee to the state’s marijuana program, The Oregonian reported.

Marshall’s appearance drew outspoken advocates: lawyers, clinic owners, growers and dispensary operators. One, Portland lawyer Leland Berger, called it remarkable.

“The U.S. attorney is under no obligation to meet with an advisory committee to a state agency or submit herself to questions from the committee,” Berger said.

But he was blunt about recent raids on medical marijuana grow sites in Southern Oregon: “After the federal government steals the patients’ medicine, how is the patient supposed to get their medicine?”

Marshall couldn’t say how U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder would respond to votes in Colorado and Washington to legalize marijuana, and she declined to offer an opinion on how to dispense medical marijuana legally in Oregon, reminding the group that the drug remains illegal under federal law.

She did talk about outlaw growers.

Marshall cited a Grants Pass grower who claimed he was following the medical marijuana law: Evidence at trial indicated the grower was selling pot for up to $2,700 a pound, and he was sentenced to a decade in federal prison.

“I don’t like calling them medical marijuana cases,” she said. “I believe they are criminals.”

Southern Oregon has many patients and good growing conditions for large plants. Marshall called Southern Oregon pot growers “brilliant gardeners.”

But Marshall also said the region is “a magnet” for people who want to exploit the medical marijuana program.

She said U.S. attorneys in medical marijuana states talk regularly. Federal officials see similarities in trafficking operations from medical marijuana grows and other trafficking cases, including illegal weapons and tax evasion, she said

“The concern isn’t that people are smoking marijuana,” she said. “Not to say there aren’t concerns associated with that, but that is not what is driving it. The concern is, we see some patterns that develop as part of drug trafficking.”