Oregon medical marijuana grower sues US over bust
January 13th, 2003
PORTLAND, Ore. (Reuters) - A quadriplegic Vietnam War veteran sued the U.S. government Monday, saying the Drug Enforcement Administration illegally seized medical use marijuana he grew under a license from the state of Oregon.
The suit filed in federal court on behalf of Leroy Stubblefield, 55, and two of his caregivers, who are also licensed to grow marijuana, is the latest challenge by liberal Oregonians to what they see as a heavy-handed federal government pushing a conservative agenda.
"The federal government doesn't tell the state of Oregon what to do and the state doesn't tell the federal government what to do," Stubblefield's attorney Anne Witte said at a press conference announcing the lawsuit.
Oregon and the federal government are at odds over two of the state's laws -- one allowing marijuana to be used to help alleviate the pain of certain illnesses and another allowing doctors to prescribe lethal drugs to be used in assisted suicides.
The Stubblefield suit aims to halt future seizures by federal agents and seeks unspecified damage payments. Stubblefield, 55, was one of the first Oregon patients to get a license to grow marijuana for medical use. He has been confined to a wheelchair for 33 years by a spinal cord injury that also causes seizures and muscle spasms. He said marijuana helps to control the spasms and pain stemming from a broken hip suffered in an auto accident in 1997.
"It enables me to take less methadone and other narcotics for my pain," Stubblefield said. "Methadone makes me want to do nothing but sleep."
OREGON VS. ASHCROFT
Though the marijuana law allows Stubblefield and his caregivers to grow up to seven marijuana plants each, DEA officials seized 12 plants from Stubblefield's home in September. Police officers in Linn County, Oregon, had decided the plants were legal, but a DEA agent who followed the officers seized the plants, citing federal law.
Stubblefield's attorneys called the DEA's actions politically motivated and questioned why he was never prosecuted for a crime.
Oregon doctors can recommend a medical marijuana license for patients with any of nine specific symptoms. Patients must grow the plants themselves and pay the state $150 a year to meet licensing requirements.
Marijuana often relieves pain and nausea and increases appetite, but is outlawed in most of the United States because of the hallucinogenic "high" it also produces.
DEA spokesman Thomas O'Brien in Spokane, Washington, said prescription drugs were available that provide the same benefits as smoking marijuana.
HIGH COURT WEIGHS IN
The U.S. Supreme Court in 2001 ruled that clubs providing marijuana to sick patients, which are legal in several states, were breaking federal law.
But last October a federal appeals court in San Francisco ruled that doctors had a free speech right to "recommend" -- rather than prescribe -- medical marijuana use, and should not be punished.