New Rules Protect Death With Dignity and Medical Marijuana Acts

December 11, 2007 - As a result of ACLU of Oregon lobbying efforts with Portland Mayor Tom Potter, Portland Police Chief Rosie Sizer has issued an executive order that specifically prohibits any police assistance with investigations or prosecutions for persons who are acting under the authority of Oregon’s Death with Dignity or Medical Marijuana acts.

Directive 315.00, issued on November 29, 2007, was amended to prohibit Portland police officers from taking any actions contrary to Oregon law and the Oregon constitution.

“We’re pleased that Mayor Potter and Chief Sizer listened to our arguments and took steps to make sure that Portland police will follow Oregon laws in their enforcement practices,” said Andrea Meyer, Legislative Director for the ACLU of Oregon. “This prevents the federal government from making an end-run around Oregon laws.”

In 2003, the Portland City Council amended a joint City of Portland and DEA Task Force agreement, removing language that required Portland officers to comply with Oregon law. The new language required Task Force members to “adhere to the DEA policies and procedures.”  Failure to comply was grounds for dismissal. This change was put on the Council consent agenda with no discussion or debate.

ACLU of Oregon was alarmed that under that language Portland officers could be used by the DEA to assist in investigations against persons lawfully acting under either the Oregon Death with Dignity Act or the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act.

Oregonians passed the Oregon Death with Dignity Act in 1994 and defeated a repeal attempt in 1997. Similarly, the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act was approved in 1998.

At the time Council amended the DEA Task Force Agreement, then-U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft had attacked both laws, threatening enforcement by the federal government. Although Ashcroft is gone, the federal government continues to oppose these two Oregon laws. Voters in Oregon have spoken and, consistent with that vote, ACLU urged that no city resources be used to assist the federal government in going after Oregonian’s lawful use of either law.

After our success in urging Portland to leave the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force in 2005, the ACLU of Oregon urged Mayor Potter to address the flaws with the DEA agreement. He agreed with our concerns. Because the DEA agreement has expired, Mayor Potter and Chief Sizer agreed that this new directive would be issued prohibiting any Portland officers from participating in enforcing  laws contrary to either Oregon laws or the Oregon constitution.

The new directive adds the following language:
“Members may not take action or exercise authority if the action or exercise of authority is prohibited by Oregon statute, the Oregon constitution, or Oregon decisional law. Specifically, members will not assist in the investigation or prosecution of any drug use, manufacturing, possession, delivery, prescription, administration or sale that is authorized by Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act (ORS 127.800 et seq.) or Oregon’s Medical Marijuana Act (ORS 475.300 et seq.).”

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