I am grateful to have represented Lori Duckworth - she has become a friend to me. Lori is and has always been a great part of this community, caring about its underprivileged and working to help law enforcement with serious crime. Today, we saw the dismissal of a 29 count indictment and Lori plead to a single, expungable and reducable count of Delivery for No Consideration. The indictment, charging her with Racketeering, Tax Evasion, Conspiracy and Witness Tampering, had been one of the longest I had ever seen when Lori first came to me. Of course, her story had been in the news and I had been shocked when she was put in jail and her bail was set above that of most of Jackson County's prisoners facing Measure 11 charges of Robbery, Rape and Sexual Abuse. Being accused of running a dispensary that gave only patients with vaild OMMP cards small amounts of marijuana for small amounts of cash, Lori had been kept in jail where those accused of violence or gun crimes might be released.
For those not from Oregon or unfamiliar with our processes, medical marijuana is legal in Oregon. Less than an ounce has also been decriminalized. Most folks in the know will tell you that recreational use is likely to be legalized, if not this year, then within the next five years and that includes the United States Attorney for Oregon and our chief Federal law enforcement official, Amanda Marshall. Under the medical program a person is allowed to possess several pounds of marijuana but dispensaries were historically not allowed so individuals had to either grow it themselves or find a "caregiver." The caregiver is not allowed to be reimbursed except for their expenses. Combining that with the value of marijuana on the street and the demand for it around the country and you end up with a situation where caregivers are trying to grow more than their patients can have and then selling the remainder. You also have a situation where the patients are looking around for caregivers but cannot go to any reliable businesses or pharmacies in order to find a caregiver that is not looking to take advantage of them (or is not dumping questionable chemicals on their plants to make them bigger). Since Lori's arrest, dispensaries have become legal in Oregon – solving the weird black market problem that the war on drugs and OMMP combined to create.
Throughout this case, I have heard, over and over again from law enforcement that they, "don't believe Lori is a bad person." Or that they are "just doing their job." But this case does call into question why the police handled it the way they did more than any case I have had in my seven and a half years as a criminal defense attorney. Lori testifies before governmental committees. Her business, called the Cannabis Collective (and Southern Oregon NORML – that's National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), was registered as a business with the city, had a sign on the front of the building and was next door to the Federal Courthouse in "downtown" Medford, within a mile of City Hall and the Police Station. Occasionally, I would walk from the Public Defender's office, where I used to work, to the Federal Court or to lunch at Bonsai for sushi. We would walk by SONORML. I had no myths about what was going on in there. It was obvious on its face because there was an effort to be somewhat transparent.
So why would anyone else pretend to? Why wouldn't they just call Lori? Or ask people walking out of the business? Or ask their accountant? Or lawyer? Why would they take the time of two detectives and employ a "confidential informant" with money and consideration on criminal charges to "investigate" what was happening? If anything, they would have realized that there was a lot less volume and money going through the business as they might have first imagined. That seems clear. Instead, we've got two detectives and a wire for two years. Search warrants written in volume, proofed by a District Attorney, reviewed by a Judge, and served by almost 25 officers while the two detectives remain standing, necessary for each of these steps. The jail space. The court time. The legal time and resources since then. That doesn't even get to property clerks, jail staff, court clerks, legal assistants or other substantial personnel expenses. If you want to cite someone for technical violations, it seems like you would do it when you became aware of it, not wait for a few years and then make a move just months prior to a vote on the legalization of dispensaries.
This is all at a time when programs for our school children are reduced. Skills classes, the kinds of things that help people actually make stuff when they grow up, are being removed from curriculum. We cannot keep people who do not show up to court in jail because we have no space. We do not have the funds for a mental health or Veterans court. We struggle to provide for our Veterans when they return from defending our freedom. We stopped building the infrastructure that actually made this country a success. And we're spending money on this type of wasteful investigation. It is time for a change.
Lori and Lee's 11 months of unsupervised probation is little punishment compared to the excruciating experience of having her home torn apart during a search in front of her family, losing her business and then being thrown in jail with $500,000 bail for a week. Lori is a great mother and much of this happened in view of her South Medford High School senior. She could have been cited and everyone knows she would have shown up in court to express her ideology regardless the possible punishments. She was not going on the lam like Ma Barker.
I am proud of Lori Duckworth, of Lee Duckworth and of Lee Berger. Lori struggled through this last year but she stayed strong, kept a smile and a cheerful outlook on the future and genuinely forgave and connected with the main Detective on the case when we spent a day in the property room with him. I am proud of her for standing up to a system and making a point – the media attention on her case is part of the reason for her favorable outcome and is also one part of the reason the District Attorney's office will no longer prosecute dispensary cases generally in Jackson County. The cost of prosecution, lessened punishments and logistics are other reasons that surely went into play. But it is because of Lori Duckworth that indictments are not being filed. That bail is not being set, high or low or anywhere in between for people that are in her shoes now. We are not to the point where things make sense in our country regarding our drug policy but we are starting to grow. Thank you, Lori, for moving us along.