By "Radical" Russ Belville
(Register-Guard) SPRINGFIELD — A medical marijuana user who threatened to sue the city of Springfield after police ticketed him for carrying the drug into the Springfield Justice Center has instead accepted a $7,500 settlement that allows the city to deny any alleged wrongdoing in the incident.
By settling the case, Paul McClain gave up his right to file a lawsuit accusing Springfield police of violating his civil rights in February 2010, when they issued him a citation charging him with marijuana possession.
It’s an interesting story. The Register-Guard reports that our medical marijuana patient went to the courthouse to work out some unpaid traffic fines. He let court officials search his backpack and they found a “small amount” of cannabis. He shows his patient card. Two cops verify him on the state registry and order him to take his medicine outside the building.
Then our patient stashes his medicine and walks back to the building. The cops give him a ticket for marijuana possession, even though he didn’t have his medicine on him at that time. That’s when a state senator – Floyd Prozanski, a longtime ally of the medical marijuana movement – gets involved:
Police said officer Brian Antone wrote the ticket because he interpreted Oregon’s medical marijuana law as saying that state-registered patients are prohibited from carrying the drug in a public place.
McClain’s case prompted state Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene, to advise Springfield Municipal Court Judge James Strickland in writing that the law’s intent is to prohibit people from smoking or growing pot in public and “not the simple act of carrying their medicine on their person or in their belongings when in a public place.”
Our patient then writes up a tort claim with the city, claiming a 14th Amendment violation of due process because nobody ever said you couldn’t bring marijuana into the courthouse. Really. A two-page letter just got him out of a $500 ticket and netted him a $7,500 check.
I think I would have enjoyed reporting on that courtroom battle. On one side, a man who got a ticket for bringing cannabis to court claiming a civil rights violation. On the other side, a government that has to explain why nobody else’s legal medicines have to be checked at the courthouse door, but legal cannabis patients’ must be stashed or confiscated. Testifying for the prosecution, police officers who don’t even know what the medical marijuana law says.