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Hemp farmers may face federal pot charges even if legal in Oregon

Soon voters here in Oregon will go to the polls. In addition to voting for public officials, voters will consider the question of marijuana legalization. This blog has reported on this issue in the post. As we have previously suggested, even though the state may choose to legalize the drug, the federal law still considers it an illegal drug.

If the law passes, many farmers in Oregon do not even anticipate growing hemp, which is related to marijuana (but less potent). They recognize that state officials would not pursue prosecution, but the federal government could still charge someone who grows the drug with federal marijuana offenses. The farmers who grow the marijuana -- and even the dispensaries that sell it -- would still live in fear of federal law enforcement showing up at their door.

Although some farmers say they will not grow marijuana or hemp, even if the law passes, other farmers are willing to take the risk. Those farmers will grow the marijuana until the federal government says otherwise.

From a legal standpoint, federal laws are enforceable, even if they contradict state law. The U.S. Department of Justice has announced that its priority remains larger-scale drug trafficking. At this time, they will not be pressing charges against farmers of marijuana in the United States complying with local and state laws. They left the door open for this policy to change at any time.

Any farmer will have to be aware that they face this possibility. Criminal defense attorneys who understand the difference intricate relationship between federal and state laws will prove to be valuable allies in sorting through issues related to marijuana and hemp legalization.

Source: ABC News, "If voters OK hemp, unclear if farmers would grow it," Gene Johnson and Kristen Wyatt, Oct. 8, 2012

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