Pubdate: Fri, 02 Feb 2018
Source: Oregonian, The (Portland, OR)
Copyright: 2018 The Oregonian
Author: Noelle Crombie


The top federal prosecutor in Oregon on Friday pressed for data and
details about the scope of the state's role as a source of black
market marijuana.

U.S. Attorney Billy Williams told a large gathering that included Gov.
Kate Brown, law enforcement officials and representatives of the
cannabis industry that Oregon has an "identifiable and formidable
overproduction and diversion problem."

"That is the fact," he told the crowd at the U.S. District courthouse.
"And my responsibility is to work with our state partners to do
something about it."

Added Williams: "Make no mistake. We are going to do something about it 
but that requires an effort to do this together. It requires 
transparency. The facts are what they are. The numbers are what they are."

Williams didn't detail how his office will carry out a new federal
directive stripping legal protections for marijuana businesses. He
said his office needs more information so it can accurately assess the
scope of the problem and come up with a response.

Williams didn't say what data he's looking for, but he previously he
has said he wants more information from the state about black market
trafficking. In a recent opinion piece published in The
Oregonian/OregonLive, Williams said he is awaiting a final version of
a Oregon State Police report on the issue.

He convened a daylong "marijuana summit" where public health and law
enforcement officials gave presentations, along with land owners and
industry representatives.

He said Oregonians are worried about the implications of legal
marijuana on their property rights, their water rights and the
environment. Public health, particularly teen access and use, is a
priority, he said.

"I am not an alarmist," he said. "Please don't have that perception of
me. I just believe in looking at things head on. Take the blinders
off, here are the realities."

The press was shut out of those presentations and was allowed only to
report on statements offered by Williams and Brown.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions last month roiled Oregon's
cannabis industry when he released a memo saying he would let federal
prosecutors decide how aggressively to enforce federal marijuana law
in states where the drug is legal.

Under President Obama, the federal government took a largely hands-off
approach to recreational and medical marijuana, provided states
developed robust regulations targeting illegal distribution.

In a document known as the Cole memo, federal authorities spelled out
their marijuana enforcement priorities, which included cracking down
on the black market, violent crime and keeping the drug from minors.
Those guidelines served as a road map for states as they crafted rules.

Under federal law, marijuana remains a Schedule 1 drug, a category of
drugs that includes heroin and is defined as substances that have a
"high potential for abuse" and "no currently accepted medical use."

Brown also spoke briefly Friday, telling those gathered that Williams
has assured her staff that "lawful Oregon businesses" are "not targets
of law enforcement."

She didn't offer details on how the state will address Oregon's role
as an illicit source of cannabis, saying only that she is committed to
keeping cannabis in the state.
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