Pubdate: Mon, 07 Aug 2006
Source: Mail Tribune, The (Medford, OR)
Copyright: 2006 The Mail Tribune
Note: Only prints LTEs from within it's circulation area.
Author: Chris Conrad, Mail Tribune
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal)


Medford police Lt. Tim George remembers the good old days when a cop
could simply chop down a marijuana plant and ask questions later.

Now, eight years after medical marijuana became a reality in Oregon,
the line between right and wrong has become somewhat murky, George

"You ask any dope cop in Oregon about medical marijuana and they'll
laugh you out of the room," he said. "There are probably some
scenarios where people really need it for things such as glaucoma or
cancer, but we have people with symptoms such as 'chronic pain' that
are clearly taking advantage of the act."

George criticizes the Legislature's raising the amount of medical
marijuana a card holder can possess. It is now legal for a user to
have 24 ounces of usable pot, six mature plants and 18 seedlings.

"That's more than one person can smoke in a year," George said,

Jackson County ranks third in the state in the number of medical
marijuana card holders, according to state statistics.

In fact, Jackson County's 1,038 card holders are not far behind higher
populated counties such as Lane (Eugene), with 1,379, and Multnomah
(Portland), with 1,838.

Those numbers look to climb as the state received 5,579 new
applications for marijuana cards between July 1, 2005, and June 30
this year. Also, medical marijuana advocacy clinics such as the
Southern Oregonians Helping Ease Medical Problems (S.O.H.E.M.P.)
advertise themselves in local classifieds, promising that a licensed
physician will help people with documented ailments qualify for cards.

The fallout from this, George said, is a bump in crime surrounding
medical marijuana users in recent years.

"We've had five recent burglaries reported to us where the suspects
broke into homes looking to steal medical marijuana," said Medford
Detective Sgt. Tim Doney.

Considering a pound of marijuana can fetch between $1,500 and $2,500
on the street, it is a profitable target for burglars, George said.

Jackson County sheriff's Detective Sgt. Colin Fagan said the
motivation for most medical marijuana burglaries -- including Tuesday's
robbery in which four men bursting into a Talent home and stole
medical marijuana at gunpoint -- is money.

"It's fairly common for us to receive reports of marijuana rip-offs,"
Fagan added. "And I can assure you that there are people with cards
that are making a profit selling their excess marijuana."

Both George and Fagan described how tough it is for cops to navigate
the gray area created when marijuana went from being illegal in all
cases to legal in a select few.

Sheriff's detectives recently worked a case where marijuana plants
were found growing on property belonging to Boise Cascade in White
City. It turned out the pot belonged to a man with a medical card who
apparently didn't know you had to grow it on your own property.

"So there are times when law-abiding people are put into peril when
marijuana is found on their property," Fagan said. "And most district
attorney's don't see the use in prosecuting people who grow too many
plants or place them where they shouldn't. It's hard to go after
someone suffering from a disease who may need it for treatment."

Fagan said most cops have learned to focus their energy on larger
grows run by drug cartels.

"If they're going to treat it like a prescription drug, then they
should dose it out from pharmacies," George added. "I'm not cold
enough to think that there aren't people who really need it, but the
way it's being handled now simply makes it more accessible on the street." 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake