PORTLAND, Ore. — Two Oregon prosecutors say they won’t drop cases against people who are now accused of selling medical marijuana at retail outlets — even though the business soon will be legal.
“This conduct was against the law at the time people committed the crime,” Bracken McKey, a Washington County prosecutor told The Oregonian newspaper. “We are expected to hold people accountable.”
Gov. John Kitzhaber is expected to sign a bill creating a legal marketplace for medical marijuana for an estimated 56,000 Oregon patients.
Prosecutors, however, won a last-minute amendment that protects cases existing before the state issues cards for dispensaries, expected next year.
McKey said Washington County took into account eventual passage of dispensary legislation when deciding the level of charges filed against the operators of the Human Collective, a Tigard collective raided last year. He said the district attorney’s office will continue prosecuting Don Morse and Sarah Bennett, who are accused of manufacturing, possessing and distributing marijuana.
Likewise, Malheur County District Attorney Dan Norris said criminal cases related to the 45th Parallel, a medical marijuana establishment near the Idaho state line, will continue. Charges are pending against eight defendants in that case. Ten others pleaded guilty to possession or distribution of marijuana, and in some cases both.
Norris said the operation wouldn’t have fallen under the protection of House Bill 3460 even if it had been in effect at the time. Under the bill, medical marijuana retailers must be separate from grow sites, a requirement that Norris said the 45th Parallel didn’t meet.
Elsewhere in Oregon, Jackson and Lane county law enforcement raided medical marijuana retailers and arrested their operators. Prosecutors in those counties did not respond to interview requests.
Margie Paris, a professor at the University of Oregon School of Law, said prosecutors are on solid legal ground, but getting a guilty verdict for activity that’s about to be legal could be a problem: “If the defendant chooses to go to trial, can you get a jury to convict?”