GOLD HILL, Ore. (AP) — Keith Rogers said Thursday he made sure the 20 people he allowed to grow medical marijuana on property he owns in the southern Oregon town of Gold Hill checked out under Oregon's medical marijuana law.
Rogers, an insurance agent, said that didn't stop about 30 federal agents from breaking down doors on his five rental houses, pointing guns at his wife, searching his house and the houses of five renters, bringing in a backhoe to rip out hundreds of plants, and seizing them along with shotguns, cell phones and a tractor.
"I can guarantee you that if Oregon medical marijuana would have came and did a search of us and our papers, they would have happily drove off and did nothing," said Rogers. "It was strictly" the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
"They are throwing their weight around and saying the voters of Oregon don't have any rights."
Officials with DEA in Medford and Seattle and the U.S. Attorney's office in Portland did not immediately return telephone calls and emails from The Associated Press for comment on the Tuesday raid first reported by KTVL-TV in Medford.
Rogers said he was presented with a search warrant that included aerial photos of his property.
The raid seems to conform to guidance offered in U.S. Department of Justice memos directing federal agents to enforce federal drug laws, even in states that have legalized medical marijuana.
A June 29 memo signed by Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole clarifying guidance for federal agents over raids in states with medical marijuana laws says they should not waste their time on individuals such as cancer patients using medical marijuana, but that "prosecution of significant traffickers of illegal drugs, including marijuana, remains a core priority."
Allen St. Pierre, of the National Organization to Legalize Marijuana, said federal agents regularly bust medical marijuana growing sites in California and Washington.
"They have an unspoken rule they tend to employ," St. Pierre said from Washington, D.C. "They are really looking for anything over 100 plants. If it is below 100 plants, it does not invite civil forfeiture the way large patches do."
Rogers said agents told him they seized 451 plants, but that many of them were small or broken, and the real number was closer to 350.
Oregon law allows a grower to have six plants or 24 ounces of processed marijuana for each of up to four patients. Rogers said the paperwork verifying that people growing on his property were within the law was seized by agents.
If each of 20 growers was producing for the maximum, that would be 24 plants each, for a total of 480, which is more than the number he said was seized.
James Bowman, who oversees a medical marijuana plantation that grows for more than 100 patients in nearby Jacksonville, said he was always nervous that federal agents could target his operation.
"We are basically doing civil disobedience against the federal government by doing what we are doing," he said.
Rogers, 58, said he was considering allowing the land to go into foreclosure, because he was having trouble renting the houses on the property, until he allowed one renter to grow medical marijuana. Then he allowed all five renters as well as other people to grow on the property.
"It was agree to what was going on, or let the bank have the property back," he said. "I'm just a guy trying to keep my property. I'm just certain this is gonna push me into bankruptcy."
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.