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MEDICAL MARIJUANA ADVOCATE CONFIDENT AS TRIAL SET TO BEGIN

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Salem Man Was Arrested in 2002 After Plants Found.

The trial of Robert Gray, a leader in Salem's medical marijuana
movement, is set to begin Monday.

Gray, founder and director of the Medical Cannabis Resource Center, or
MERCY, is charged with manufacture, possession and distribution of a
controlled substance.

MERCY merged with Voter Power, the organization behind a proposed
expansion of the current law.

The Marion Area Gang and Narcotics Enforcement Team found 37 marijuana
plants and a large amount of dried marijuana at 1695 Fairgrounds Road
NE, Salem, on March 8, 2002.

District Attorney Dale Penn said Friday that the case has nothing to
do with medical marijuana.

"He may be a cardholder and a caregiver, but our position is the facts
of this case goes outside the facts of any medical marijuana
evidence," Penn said.

Gray said he is within his rights as a medical marijuana cardholder
and caregiver under the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act.

"We're going to win and we're going to believe in the people," said
Gray, 38.

The law allows a cardholding patient or his designated caregiver as
much as seven plants -- three mature and four immature --and as much
as 7 ounces of dried marijuana.

According to court documents, Gray said he was the caregiver for five
cardholders other than himself. State law allows a caregiver to have
multiple patients.

Gray's trial comes at a time when the Bush administration is cracking
down on states with laws allowing medical marijuana .

Federal law prohibits the manufacture and delivery of marijuana.
Oregon is one of nine states that allows medical use of marijuana, but
patients in all states except California must grow their own or get it
as a donation.

States with medical marijuana laws have been the focus of increased
scrutiny by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and Attorney
General John Ashcroft.

A federal bill that targets states allowing medical marijuana use is
pending. It would shift $11 million from state and local police to the
federal government to fight drugs in high trafficking areas such as
Marion County.

Penn said law enforcement always has been concerned about those who
use the medical marijuana law as a shield for illegal drug activities.

In Oregon, while some medical marijuana advocates are pushing to
expand the existing law, others are worried about protecting hard-won
gains. About 4,500 Oregonians are registered medical marijuana patients.

House Bill 2939, written to avert potential problems with the federal
government by tightening the state's medical marijuana law, will
likely die in the Senate.

Dr. Grant Higginson, state health officer, said the bill would have
put restrictions on cardholding patients with criminal pasts. He said
a work group is being formed to craft revisions to the law for the
next session.

Wendell Basye, assistant director of MERCY, said the classification of
marijuana with other Schedule 1 drugs such as heroin and
methamphetamine out of line.

He called Gray's trial the epitome of a "witch hunt" mentality of
overzealous law enforcement.

Stormy Ray, the grandmother who helped get Oregon's Medical Marijuana
Act on the books, said she's found law enforcement to be supportive of
the law. She sees a growing divide among what has become three sides
of the issues; patients, advocates pushing for legalization, and the
federal government.

"We try to take patients out of the middle with education," said Ray,
who heads a foundation to educate and assist patients, law
enforcement, and others in the community about Oregon's law. "That
situation wouldn't exist if patients had medicine," she said. "Those
people don't have any place to go."

Meanwhile, Gray said he wants to stage a smokeout by medical marijuana
patients Monday in front of the Marion County Courthouse. He also
intends to sue Marion County after his trial.


Pubdate: Sat, 07 Jun 2003
Source: Statesman Journal (OR)
Webpage: http://news.statesmanjournal.com/article.cfm?i=62730
Copyright: 2003 Statesman Journal
Contact: letters@statesmanjournal.com
Website: Statesman Journal: Salem news, sports, entertainment. Serving Salem, Oregon.
 
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