ACLU Applauds Oregon Attorney General's Statement that Medical Marijuana Program Remains 100 Percent Legal

Affiliate: ACLU of Oregon
June 17, 2005 12:00 am

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Medical Marijuana Card Program Must Resume in Compliance with Oregon State Law


PORTLAND, OR – The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon expressed satisfaction that the state attorney general’s office acknowledged today that Oregon’s medical marijuana program remains in full force and effect despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last week in Gonzales v. Raich. The attorney general’s opinion means that the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) must immediately resume issuance of medical marijuana registry identification cards to qualified applicants – a process that DHS had temporarily suspended pending the attorney general’s review.

“”We are relieved that Oregon Attorney General Hardy Myers has responded to our concerns, weighed the facts at hand, and properly concluded that Oregon’s medical marijuana statute remains 100 percent valid,”” said David Fidanque, Executive Director of the ACLU of Oregon. “”Medical marijuana patients across the state can breathe a collective sigh of relief that our public officials have done the right thing.””

The DHS suspended issuance of medical marijuana registration cards after the Raich decision was announced Monday, June 6. Within days, the ACLU Drug Law Reform Project and the ACLU of Oregon submitted to the DHS and the attorney general a legal analysis and letter demanding that the DHS resume issuing cards and that the attorney general publicly acknowledge the continued validity of Oregon state laws protecting medical marijuana patients. The attorney general’s official statement released today, requiring DHS to resume issuing cards, confirms the ACLU’s analysis and reaffirms the legality of Oregon’s medical marijuana law.

“”Raich does not hold that state laws regulating medical marijuana are invalid nor does it require states to repeal existing medical marijuana laws. Additionally, the case does not oblige states to enforce federal laws,”” said Attorney General Hardy Myers today in his official statement.

The attorney general also agreed with the ACLU that DHS need not alter its program in any way and that DHS continues to bear responsibility for reviewing applications and issuing medical marijuana registration cards pursuant to current state law. The attorney general said that while DHS will be permitted to inform patients of potential liability under federal law, the state is not legally obligated to do so. The opinion further explains that since federal prosecution has always been a possibility from the time that Oregon’s medical marijuana laws were enacted, most patients are already aware of the distinction between state and federal protection. The ACLU notes, however, that federal authorities have never arrested or prosecuted individual medical marijuana patients in Oregon or elsewhere, and in recent public statements have emphasized repeatedly that they have no plans to change that policy.

“”We are gratified that the attorney general agreed with our legal analysis of the Raich decision,”” said Allen Hopper, an attorney with the ACLU Drug Law Reform Project. “”While the potential exists for federal action against individual patients, state medical marijuana laws still provide significant protection. Fully 99 percent of all marijuana arrests throughout the country are undertaken by state and local law enforcement, not federal agents.””

Hopper added, “”The ACLU remains committed to holding state government officials to their obligation to continue to enforce and comply with state medical marijuana laws.””

For additional information on Gonzales v. Raich, see: /node/16973

To read the initial ACLU letter, see: /node/37924

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