While many of us are gearing up for our Memorial Holiday weekend filled with fun, friends and family, I can’t help but think about my friend Lori Duckworth and an Oregon woman whose cries for help on a 911 call might as well have fallen on deaf ears. Lori won’t be enjoying her holiday weekend as she sits in a jail cell because she has provided medicine to Oregon medical marijuana patients that can legally possess up to 24 ounces of medical cannabis. I only hope that the woman that suffered a horrible attack because no law enforcement officer could come to her aid is doing well and has recuperated as much as possible from such a harrowing ordeal. While these two matters may seem unrelated, I think that they are completely intertwined and they help demonstrate the society we currently live in and provide us with a picture of where we are headed if we don’t better prioritize our resources.
Lori, her husband Lee, and several other Oregonians were subjected to frightening paramilitary raids on Thursday. They were handcuffed, their property ransacked and they were thrown in cages for providing medicine to patients. Their alleged crime is that they recouped too much reimbursement for the medical cannabis they provided. Under Oregon law, growers are allowed to be reimbursed for supplies and utilities, but not labor.
The Oregonian’s Noelle Crombe reports:
Lori Duckworthwasn’t one to hide her marijuana activism. She was a regular at legislative hearings on medical marijuana bills. She operated a downtown storefront where thousands of dues-paying southern Oregon patients got cannabis.
On Thursday, the 48-year-old married mother and grandmother became the latest high-profile figure in the state’s robust cannabis community to be swept up in a drug investigation.
Duckworth and her husband, Leland Duckworth, 49, are accused of selling marijuana. State and federal laws ban the sale of the drug. Oregon allows medical marijuana growers to recoup the costs of supplies and utilities when providing the drug to state-registered patients.
What exactly constitutes supplies and utilities isn’t defined. The electric and water bill are certainly included in utilities. Soil and nutrients are certainly supplies. But what about the rent or mortgage payment? What about security precautions to ensure that patients’ medicine ins’t stolen? How does law enforcement know how much electricity went into an indoor garden or how much soil as purchased for an outdoor crop? Why hasn’t law enforcement provided some guidance as to what they consider proper reimbursement? Do law enforcement agencies want clear rules and regulations or do they prefer a grey area, allowing them to arrest first and ask questions later?
In raids across Oregon yesterday, over 70 law enforcement officers were utilized. City, county, state and federal law enforcement agencies assisted in these raids including Homeland Security, the FBI and the US Marshall’s Service. I know that you must feel very safe from the next terrorist plot knowing that the FBI and Homeland Security are assisting in the arrest of a grandmother that provides cannabis to state-registered patients. A couple of the Oregon agencies assisting these raids caught my eye as they include law enforcement officers from Josephine County: the Grants Pass Department of Safety and the Rogue Area Drug Enforcement team (RADE). Why did these Josephine County agencies catch my eye? Because of a poor woman who called 911 because she was about to be brutally attacked in Josephine County and there wasn’t a law enforcement officer on the job that could help her.
On August 18, 2012, an Oregon woman in Josephine County called 911 to report that her ex-boyfriend, a man that had assaulted her before, was trying to break into her home and attack her. The poor woman’s ordeal, and the response she got from the 911 dispatcher, are simply chilling.
Woman: “My ex-boyfriend is trying to break into my house. I’m not letting him in but he’s like, tried to break down the door and he’s tried to break into one of the windows.”
State police tape: “Uh, I don’t have anybody to send out there. You know, obviously, if he comes inside the residence and assaults you, can you ask him to go away? Do you know if he’s intoxicated or anything?”
According to police records, a few minutes later Michael Bellah used a piece of metal to pry open the woman’s front door. He choked her, and sexually assaulted her. Later that day he was arrested by the State Police.
Can you imagine? You or a loved one calling 911 because of an impending attack and being told that there isn’t “anybody to send out there” and “can you ask him to go away?” My heart simply aches for this woman. And my blood boils because I know that as a society, we can do better. If only she would have reported that a medical marijuana grower was about to provide marijuana to a state-registered patient in exchange for money that arguably could be construed to be more than just the supplies and utilities it cost to grow the marijuana. Then, maybe more than 70 officers, including the FBI and Homeland Security could come to her aid.
Obviously, there are more dangerous people on the streets than Lori Duckworth and surely there are a few unsolved rapes, burglaries, kidnappings and murders. And yet more than 70 officers have the time and resources to arrest people for providing marijuana to patients. Marijuana that the patients can legally possess, has been approved by their doctor and cannot cause a fatal overdose. But, if when a woman calls the police, hoping that someone, anyone can help prevent an impending assault and rape, there is no one that can assist her.
Of course, Josephine County isn’t the only county in Oregon with budget woes. It was recently reported that Lane County would be facing a $34 million dollar budget reduction, forcing cuts in the District Attorney’s office. There are widespread budget deficits across Jackson County as the county struggles to keep library services fully funded. Somehow, despite these widespread budget woes, all of these counties assisted in medical marijuana raids across the state yesterday.
Maybe, just maybe, we should license, regulate and tax the sale of cannabis and direct those funds to help combat dangerous criminals. There are a few bills in the Oregon Legislature that can help do just that, House Bill 3460, that would license and regulate medical cannabis dispensaries and House Bill 3371, that would establish licensed and retail outlets for all adults. These measures can generate millions of dollars for the state of Oregon, ensuring that police officers can come assist you when you dial 911.
Do we all feel safer knowing that Lori Duckworth, a loving grandmother, is behind bars, but the state can’t afford to help a young woman begging for help? I know the society that I want to live in, a society a majority of Oregonians and Americans want to live in. We are so close to ending a futile war and better prioritizing our law enforcement resources. Unfortunately, we were too late for a Josephine County woman last August. Let’s hope that she is the last one to make such a frantic call only to be told that there is no one there to help her.