Pot Advocates Evicted

Medford Mail Tribune | July 2, 2013 6:36 p.m. | Updated: July 3, 2013 1:36 a.m.

Contributed By:

chris conrad

None

By chris conrad

Mail Tribune

Lori Duckworth spent a sweltering Tuesday afternoon scraping paint from the walls of her former office.

She and her husband, Leland Duckworth, have run the Southern Oregon chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (SONORML) from the space at 332 W. Sixth St. in Medford for four years. But now the cannabis advocacy group must vacate the property by midnight Sunday.

The Duckworths’ landlord is evicting SONORML from the site, saying that they have broken federal laws by using the property as a front for marijuana sales, according to an eviction notice filed in Jackson County Circuit Court.

“We’ve already been convicted for something that hasn’t even been to court on yet,” Duckworth said. “But it’s OK. We are going to stay in Medford and keep providing our clients with a safe, legal place to receive their medicine.”

The office has served as a community center for medical marijuana users, but was targeted on May 23 during a series of police raids in Jackson County. The Duckworths, along with two others who maintained medical marijuana dispensaries in the county, were hit with a load of felony charges.

On Tuesday, friends of the Duckworths and SONORML staff packed appliances and furniture into a horse trailer parked outside the office, which sits next door to the U.S. District Court building.

Some members of the moving crew grew emotional as the building was emptied.

“We enjoyed it here, but, as I said, we are looking forward to moving on,” Duckworth said.

The eviction papers also noted that the Duckworths were late on their June rent. The Duckworths said that was because the money for rent was seized from their bank accounts as part of the police crackdown.

“We have petitioned the court to get our rent and mortgage money back, but we know that we’ll probably never see that money again,” she said.

The Duckworths face 11 counts each of conspiracy to deliver marijuana within 1,000 feet of a school, and 11 counts each of manufacturing marijuana within 1,000 feet of a school. A small private school is located about two blocks from the SONORML office.

The Medford Police Department recently added racketeering and money laundering counts against the couple.

Duckworth said these charges were lodged after police looked at the couple’s accountant and tax records.

“You know, I just shrugged it off,” Duckworth said. “At this point what can I do? What did they possibly find in my tax records? I’m not a millionaire drug dealer. I hope they saw that I’m a taxpayer paying my own way.”

She said she believes the added charges are a power play made by prosecutors to increase their leverage when it comes time to make plea deals.

The SONORML office was one of four medical marijuana centers raided by police on May 23.

Police said the dispensaries were being used as storefronts for illegal marijuana sales. Officers said they seized nearly 12 pounds of marijuana and 94 plants at the SONORML site, along with $2,752 in cash, documents, computers and edible marijuana products. Police said they believe the money is from illegal drug sales. Police also said they seized 22 pounds of marijuana from the Duckworths’ home.

Lori Duckworth said police are under-reporting the cash seizures and that the amount was more than $4,000.

The Duckworths said they are looking at moving to a new location in downtown Medford, close to a bus line.

“We need to be close to public transportation because that’s what many of our clients use to get around,” she said.

No timetable has been set for the new SONORML office to open.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or cconrad@mailtribune.com.

This story originally appeared in Medford Mail Tribune.

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