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Subpoenas worry users of medical marijuana

August 13th, 2007

Federal subpoenas seeking medical records of 17 Oregon medical-marijuana patients have growers and users upset and nervous even as a federal...

By The Associated Press

PORTLAND — Federal subpoenas seeking medical records of 17 Oregon medical-marijuana patients have growers and users upset and nervous even as a federal judge considers whether to throw the subpoenas out.

"It's crazy. It's really scary. If they can get my records, they can get Gov. [Ted] Kulongoski's, they can get yours," said Donald DuPay, a former Portland police officer and 2006 candidate for Multnomah County sheriff.

DuPay says his records are among those subpoenaed.

A federal grand jury in Yakima issued the subpoenas in April as part of an investigation of some growers in Oregon and Washington.

The patients are not targets of the grand jury.

A Seattle spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration declined to comment.

The subpoenas were served on the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program, which issues permits to patients and their authorized growers.

A second subpoena went to The Hemp and Cannabis Foundation, a private Portland clinic where doctors determine whether a patient's condition would be eased by marijuana.

The DEA raided DuPay's Portland home in June and seized 135 marijuana plants DuPay said he was growing for patients. DuPay, who hosts a local cable-access program on medical marijuana, says he has not been arrested.

On Aug. 1, lawyers from the state and from the ACLU, representing the Hemp and Cannabis Foundation, asked Chief U.S. District Judge Robert H. Whaley in Yakima to throw the subpoenas out.

James Hagerty, the assistant U.S. attorney who convened the grand jury, acknowledged that the subpoenas were written too broadly. What the grand jury wants, he said, is not "medical records" but current addresses and phone numbers for the 17 patients.

He said the grand jury is investigating four or five people for growing marijuana to sell under the medical-marijuana law.

The 17 get or got medical marijuana from the people under investigation, he said

Oregon voters enacted the state's program in 1998, and 14,868 Oregonians hold patient cards. An additional 7,115 have state permission to grow medical marijuana. They can't sell it but can accept donations to defray costs.

Eleven other states, including Washington, have medical-marijuana laws and at least two more are considering them.

But federal law forbids the use or cultivation of marijuana. Federal authorities have attacked California's program by raiding marijuana dispensaries and prosecuting growers there for years.

Last month, the DEA sent letters to landlords of dispensaries in Los Angeles warning of possible prison sentences.

But the Oregon subpoenas apparently are the first time the DEA has come after medical records, "and of course, it is very worrisome," said Bruce Mirkin, a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, an advocacy group in Washington, D.C.

"People have an expectation of medical privacy, and I think they have a right to expect medical privacy," Mirkin said.

"It's one thing to talk about people selling a product that is in fact not legal under federal law. We may think that's stupid. But that's in a whole different realm than obtaining people's medical records."

The Web site for the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program promises patients and caregivers that their medical records are legally protected.

Kris Hermes, a spokesman for the advocacy group Americans for Safe Access, said the subpoenas suggest the DEA is looking beyond prosecuting dealers.

"It sends a message to the other states and their programs that they're vulnerable to federal interference," he said.

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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