Federal Charges Dropped Against Teen With One Gram of Marijuana

Los angeles criminal law attorney

Federal prosecutors are officially dropping the charges made earlier this year against a 19-year-old Oregon teen who was busted with a gram of marijuana at a boarding school in Salem.

Despite the fact that recreational marijuana is legal in the state of Oregon, the U.S. Attorney’s office was seeking criminal marijuana charges and a federal misdemeanor against Native American student Devontre Thomas. If convicted, he could have faced $1,000 in fines and a year in jail, as well as a permanent criminal record that would bar him from ever receiving federal student loans or public assistance for the rest of his life.

Prosecutors have agreed to drop the charges, provided that Thomas does not break any laws and maintains a job or school enrollment for the next 60 days. Outrage about the case spread quickly; after all, this was not a case for an assault attorney, a murder defense lawyer, or a sex crime attorney, but simply a kid with enough pot in his backpack to roll a single joint.

Thomas’ public defender, Ruben Iniguez, gave him the highest level of legal representation he could, and is pleased with the results. “I think it’s a fair resolution of the case,” he said. “I would sincerely hope that no one else, adult or minor, has to be faced with the same sort of dilemma — the heavy hand of the government.”

One of Oregon’s U.S. Representatives, Earl Blumenauer, was particularly vocal about the wrongfulness of Thomas’ overblown marijuana charges. He released a statement upon news of the dropped charges which read: ?While I am pleased to see the U.S. Attorney drop the charges, I?m still concerned that this Office thought it was worth prosecuting in the first place. My hope is that this sets a precedent that federal prosecutors should not be wasting time and resources on low level marijuana crimes.”

Hopefully, the prosecutors’ embarrassment over the case will be enough to prevent others from similar fates in the future. About 8.2 million marijuana arrests were made between 2001 and 2010, and 88% of them for possession alone. When will law enforcement catch up with the times?