Police confusion over Oregon marijuana laws may help a defense

| Jun 2, 2021 | Criminal Defense |

In Oregon, much has changed with how drug crimes are addressed, when people can be arrested and the penalties they might face. Since marijuana and other drugs are increasingly treated less severely depending on a variety of factors such as how much the person had in his or her possession, it has radically altered how the case is handled at every level. This has not only impacted the person arrested and the type of defense they present, but it has stoked confusion among law enforcement officers. While every case is different, it is important to understand these concerns as it might be relevant to an effective defense.

Study: Oregon law enforcement is unsure about marijuana laws

A report from Portland State University found that law enforcement officers find the state’s new marijuana laws difficult to understand and this is influencing how they are enforced. Officer complaints included statements as to how convoluted the laws. One officer stated that if police cannot understand them, citizens should not be expected to either. Some have simply decided not to make any arrests at all when marijuana is involved. In the study, more than 300 officers were spoken to. They were from various agencies in the state. The results indicated overwhelming perceptions about the new laws and how they changed people’s behavior.

More than 90% of officers believed that there were more people – juveniles and adults –who drove under the influence of marijuana. In addition, more than 90% said illegal marijuana shipments into Oregon has been rising since 2017. As for assessing whether any laws were broken, more than 60% said it was harder. Recreational marijuana has been legal for people 21 and older since 2014. Despite that, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission has greater leeway in issuing licenses for marijuana production. People can still be arrested for DWI, illegally possessing marijuana, illegal growing marijuana, and processing or distributing it. Medical marijuana compared to recreational cannabis also resulted in law enforcement confusion as it investigated potential illegal activity.

Understanding the evidence can be essential to a defense

Prosecutors move forward in pursuing charges after arrests for drug crimes, but they too face challenges in achieving a conviction if the officers are unsure about the intricacies of the laws regarding marijuana. Those who do find themselves confronted with charges and the accompanying penalties should not only consider their options for a plea bargain and if there is a good chance at acquittal, but they should scrutinize the evidence itself and the officers’ conduct during the arrest. To forge an effective defense, having experienced assistance can be imperative from the beginning.