Charges Dropped Against Oregon Teen Facing Federal Prison Time For One Gram Of Cannabis
As Green Flower readers are learning, I'm a very proud Oregonian. In addition to the wide range of beauty that can be found around Oregon, there is also a lot of world class cannabis, and the best possession laws in the country.
In Oregon a person can possess up to one ounce of cannabis flower on their person as long as it's not in public view. At a residence, that same person can possess up to 8 ounces of cannabis flower.
However, that only counts from the Oregon legal perspective. Federally, cannabis is still very much illegal, even within the borders of the State of Oregon.
The story of Devontre Thomas
Chemawa Indian School is located in Salem, Oregon right off the I-5 freeway. In 2015, a senior named Devontre Thomas was busted for purchasing one gram of cannabis.
Keep in mind that cannabis legalization was approved by voters in Oregon in 2014. Yet, despite cannabis being legal in the state where the Native American school is located, Mr. Thomas was charged with a federal felony because the school is run by the Bureau of Indian Education, a federal agency.
The penalty for the federal felony was a year in federal prison and a hefty fine. Had Mr. Thomas been caught at any public school in Oregon that operated according to Oregon law, the situation would have been handled much differently.
Willamette Week and Oregon federal politicians to the rescue
The charges against Devontre Thomas were absurd to say the least. How could someone residing in a legal cannabis state be facing such stiff penalties for one gram of cannabis?
The Willamette Week, a Portland, Oregon publication, brought attention to Mr. Thomas' situation, and public outcry ensued. Three federal politicans from Oregon started to speak out about Devontre's plight, and even directed a letter to the United States Department of Justice asking why this case was being pursued in the first place.
Good news and bad news
I'm very happy to report I received an e-mail the same day the Oregon Congressional delegation sent the letter to the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) stating that charges had been dropped against Devontre Thomas.
That's very good news. However, it doesn't answer the question as to why he was charged in the first place, which is something that Earl Blumenauer address in a press release sent to me by e-mail dealing with the DOJ decision:
Today, U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer (OR-03) released the following statement on the decision by the U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon to drop charges against Oregonian teen, Devontre Thomas, for possessing a small amount of marijuana.
“While I am pleased to see the U.S. Attorney drop the charges in the case of 19-year-old Devontre Thomas, I’m still concerned that this Office thought it was worth prosecuting in the first place. My hope is that this sets a precedent that federal prosecutors should not be wasting time and resources on low level marijuana crimes.”
Recently, U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer led a letter to U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon, expressing concerns about the drug prosecution priorities of the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The letter was also signed by U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley.
It was good news for Devontre when all was said and done, but what if Devontre didn't live in a legal state? Would it have been the same end result?
What if Devontre lived in a legal state, but the federal politicians there weren't as supportive of cannabis reform as members of Oregon's delegation are? Would he still be looking at a year in federal prison for one gram of cannabis?
Sadly, I don't think we would have ever heard about Mr. Thomas. It breaks my heart to think about it, but cannabis is still very much federally illegal, and as long as that's the case, there will be more prohibition victims.
That's why I am an activist, and plan on fighting for social justice until situations like Devontre Thomas' never happen again.
Should federal agents be able to charge people for cannabis possession in legal states?