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Feds force Oregon to surrender medical marijuana patient records

By Kay Steiger
Friday, April 12, 2013 12:05 EDT
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Nurse holds medical marijuana via Shutterstock
 
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Federal agents have forced the Oregon Public Health Division to turn over an untold number of patients’ medical marijuana records, according to court records recently uncovered by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Department of Justice Special Agent Michael Gutensohn applied for a warrant to seize the records that was executed in November as part of an investigation into medical marijuana growers who were suspected of selling goods illegally.

“I have probable cause to believe that records from the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program will contain evidence and instrumentalities of marijuana manufacturing and trafficking and conspiracy to commit marijuana manufacturing and trafficking offenses,” he wrote.

Gerri Badden, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Oregon, told the Post-Intelligencer that only those specific records listed in the warrant had been seized, but that the investigation was ongoing.

Jonathan Modie, a spokesperson for the state’s public health division, which runs the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP), said the state “routinely releases records pursuant to a court order.”

“I want to emphasize, though, that unless compelled to do so by a court order, the OMMP does not give out information about patients, caregivers, or growers. Law enforcement personnel may contact the OMMP or access the 24/7 Law Enforcement Data System (LEDS) only to verify a specific name or address of a patient, caregiver or person responsible for a growsite,” Modie continued in an email to the Post-Intelligencer. “The OMMP will tell law enforcement staff if the patient, caregiver, grower, or growsite address in question is registered, or if an application is in process. The OMMP will disclose patient information to others only at the specific written request of the patient. The OMMP computer files are secure and paper files are kept locked when not in use.”

Because the sale and use of marijuana is still classified as a federal felony, state medical marijuana programs like the one in Oregon exist in a legal gray area.

A similar warrant sought by U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag was narrowed on Wednesday to exclude identifying information in California’s Mendocino County. Haag had issued the “chilling subpoena” in October, according to the East Bay Express.

Mendocino Supervisor John McCowen wrote to those protesting the subpoena, “An agreement has been reached which voids the need for further court action. No personal identifying information will be reported to the U.S. Attorney.”

[A nurse holds Medical Cannabis on July 17, 2011 in Rehevot. Marijuana is illegal in Israel but medical use has been permitted since the early 1990s for patients pain-related illnesses. Credit: ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com]

Kay Steiger
Kay Steiger
Kay Steiger is the managing editor of Raw Story. Her contributions have appeared in The American Prospect, The Atlantic, Campus Progress, The Guardian, In These Times, Jezebel, Religion Dispatches, RH Reality Check, and others. You can follow her on Twitter @kaysteiger.
 
 
 
 
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