Feds access Oregon medical marijuana patient database


The Oregon Public Health Division has handed over medical marijuana patient records to federal agents, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
In November of last year, federal agents submitted a search warrant to the Public Health Division as part of an investigation against several growers in Oregon who feds say were using the medical program as a front and selling marijuana on the black market.

In his request, the federal agent in charge made it clear that he was going to use the records as proof of the growers’ guilt:
“I know that in order to effectively pursue this investigation,” wrote special agent Michael Gutensohn. “I need to investigate each of the patients, growers and caregivers associated with” names discovered in the investigation. 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.”

“I am familiar with narcotics traffickers’ tactics in using the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program to shield their activities in cultivating and selling marijuana. Often narcotics traffickers in Oregon, who are cultivating and selling marijuana for profit register with the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program, and then recruit other individuals to obtain OMMP patient cards listing the narcotics trafficker or an associate as the patient’s marijuana grower or caregiver, enabling the narcotics trafficker to increase the number of marijuana plants permitted under Oregon state law, and to make it more difficult for local law enforcement officers to investigate,” Gutensohn said. “I know that the marijuana growers often grow more marijuana than permitted under state law, and that they often illegally sell the “over-production” in other states where the marijuana sells at a better price.”
So, basically he assumes everyone growing is selling on the black market – therefore he needs the records of people who are otherwise following state law.
The move no doubt casts a shadow on the 17 other states and District of Columbia that allow medical marijuana use and maintain patient databases. Of those, only Colorado has enshrined patient protections in the constitution, making it clear that the only people with access to patient records are law enforcement who need to verify a medical marijuana card that has been presented to them. So far, that language has protected patients from local law enforcement meddling, including linking the patient database with general opens searches using law enforcement computers.
Jonathan Modie, a spokesman for the Public Health Division said that while the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act protects the privacy of users, except when it comes to the feds. Even then, he said that they didn’t just hand over the records. As he told the Post-Intelligencer:
“The Act does not protect marijuana plants from seizure or individuals from prosecution if the federal government chooses to take action against registered cardholders under the Federal Controlled Substances Act,” he said. “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. 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.”
For more, visit the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.