Marijuana activist to leave the country

Associated Press

ALBANY, Ore. — The organizer of the annual World Hemp Festival has arranged a deal with prosecutors to have criminal charges against him dropped in return for five years of self-imposed exile in Central America.

Marijuana activist Bill Conde, 58, went to court Thursday expecting to have the agreement approved by a judge. But Linn County Circuit Judge Carol Bispham met privately with Conde’s lawyer and a prosecutor, then postponed the hearing until next week so the proposal can be revised.

Conde’s lawyer, Brian Michaels of Eugene, says any changes will be minor.

"In the end, all of the charges against Mr. Conde will be dismissed, and he will be living and doing business in Belize," he said. Belize is a tiny Caribbean country between Mexico and Guatemala.

Conde is currently serving a five-year term of supervised probation after being convicted of abetting delivery of a controlled substance and hindering prosecution in 1999 during the World Hemp Festival, an annual three-day event at his redwood lumber yard.

Under the deal, Conde must not return to Oregon for five years or his unfinished term of supervised probation will be reinstated.

"They let me go; I’m going," Conde said Thursday. "But it’s a real mixed bag. I’m leaving behind 30 years of unfinished work and unfinished activism."

Conde has agreed to drop his appeal of his conviction as well as a lawsuit against the county, while prosecutors would dismiss six pending charges, including four felonies.

He would be able to return to Oregon after five years without consequence. However, if he returns without the judge’s permission, his unfinished term of supervised probation will be reinstated.

Conde is trying to sell the lumber yard he has operated since 1973 near Harrisburg.

Copyright ©2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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