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FAMM Briefs April 30, 2012

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U.S. Sentencing Commission Considers Child Pornography and Fraud Sentences April 25, 2012

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Medical marijuana, Measure 11 emerge as big issues in Oregon race for Attorney General candidates Dwight Holton and Ellen Rosenblum April 24, 2012

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Federal agents raided four southern Oregon marijuana farms in rapid succession early last fall, searching homes, seizing residents’ guns and hauling off hundreds of pot plants.

The show of force shocked Jackson County residents and infuriated many who believe the farms were operating legally under Oregon’s medical marijuana law.

Six months later, the raids and marijuana in general have emerged as a surprise issue in the tight race for Oregon attorney general. A pro-marijuana legalization group has come out strongly for retired Oregon appellate Judge Ellen Rosenblum because it was her opponent, Dwight Holton, then acting U.S. attorney, who authorized the controversial raids.

“Dwight Holton has called our voter-approved law a ‘train wreck’ and is campaigning on his plan to gut it,” said Robert Wolfe, of Citizens for Sensible Law Enforcement. “Holton is openly disrespectful of Oregon voters, and hostile to medical marijuana patients and providers. He would be a disaster as attorney general.”

Pro-marijuana contributors had given about $2,600 to Rosenblum’s campaign as of Friday. Citizens for Sensible Law Enforcement is also running pro-Rosenblum ads on Portland radio stations and is gearing up a print ad campaign as well, Wolfe said.

Identifying oneself with the pot lobby is a high-risk strategy for a would-be attorney general, in effect Oregon’s top law enforcement official. It’s a dramatic contrast to Holton, who cites among his supporters many of Oregon’s district attorneys and sheriffs.

But Rosenblum has embraced her new supporters comparing Oregon’s medical marijuana law to other pioneering state statutes like the bottle bill and assisted suicide measures. She toured a Tigard marijuana dispensary on Sunday. “It makes a huge difference for me to see the collective and to see the way you are responsibly applying the law,” she said to the applause of a gathered crowd.

Holton says he has no intention of gutting the medical marijuana law, which he feels was passed for “compassionate reasons.” But he has a dimmer view of how it’s playing out. “We know from law enforcement officials that marijuana is ending up on the black market,” he said.

More than 55,000 Oregonians, including patients suffering from cancer, AIDs and chronic pain, participate in the state’s medical marijuana system. The law allows medical marijuana patients to have the drug but doesn’t tell them where to get it.

Into that void, entrepreneurs have opened an estimated 50 to 100 medical marijuana outlets around the state, where patients can get pot directly from growers.

The law has generated tension with federal authorities, who still consider possession, purchase, growing and selling pot a crime. Some agree with Holton that pot grown under the auspices of the state program is finding its way to the street.

Rosenblum says Holton is out of touch with Oregon sensibilities on weed. “I will not support hard-ball tactics against medical marijuana providers and will protect the rights of medical marijuana patients,” Rosenblum said. “Pursuing small-time marijuana users or attempting to dismantle the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act would be a waste of public dollars.”

Holton fires right back at Rosenblum, particularly her statement that she will de-emphasize prosecution of minor marijuana possession cases.

“This is not about medical marijuana, it’s about whether we’re going to have an AG who picks and chooses which laws they’re going to enforce,” Holton said. “She’s made it very clear that she does not think there are resources to enforce marijuana laws. It’s entirely inappropriate. It invites lawbreaking.”

Holton’s camp has jumped on the marijuana issue, saying the policy gulf between the two candidates has become the “defining issue” of the campaign.

Wolfe agrees, saying Holton is “out-of-step” with the 400,000 or more recreational pot users in Oregon as well as his party. “He ought to be running as a Republican,” Wolfe said. On Monday, the secretary of state fined Wolfe $65,000 for violating Oregon’s constitution in gathering signatures for the marijuana legalization initiative.

That Holton would emerge as the “law-and-order” candidate in the race is not surprising given his long background as a federal prosecutor. He’s also strived to position himself to the right of Rosenblum on the issue of Oregon’s Measure 11 mandatory-minimum sentencing law.

Prosecutors generally favor mandatory minimum sentences, saying tough sentencing has helped reduce serious crime. But Measure 11 has led to swelling prison populations and enormous increases in the state’s corrections budget.

Last week, the Multnomah County Prosecuting Attorneys Association endorsed Holton, in part, it said because Rosenblum had sent mixed signals about her support of Measure 11.

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Georgia Gets into Sentencing Reform Act April 20, 2012

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Judge grants Measure 11 convict a rare early release

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A blustery Sunday afternoon last November found Circuit Judge William Cramer Jr. catching up on files in the closed Harney County Courthouse.

Cramer came to a one-page document, extraordinary for what it would do. The order, awaiting only Cramer’s approval, would conditionally release a convict years shy of finishing his mandated sentence.

Cramer signed it.

With that, he freed Charles L. Clifford and landed in a renewed debate over Measure 11, Oregon’s tough crime initiative. The law, passed by voters in 1994, is under new scrutiny as the state prepares to reconsider who should punish criminals: judges or voters.

Cramer presided over the 2009 trial that convicted Clifford, now 36, of badly injuring a man in a late-night brawl. The judge sent Clifford to prison for the mandatory 70 months — nearly six years — but not before declaring that the sentence was too harsh. The order gave Cramer a chance to release Clifford after he had served the time the judge had in mind at the outset.

Such releases are exceedingly rare. Attorneys involved in Clifford’s case could think of only a couple of others in recent years, even with more than 6,000 Oregon inmates serving sentences under Measure 11. Clifford’s release is tied to an appeal of his conviction — and he’ll return to prison if he loses.

Yet as Gov. John Kitzhaber prepares to assign a new panel to take up sentencing reform, Cramer and the state’s other 172 circuit judges could get more discretion in future cases.

Kitzhaber is seeking an overhaul of the criminal justice system, including sentencing, to rein in galloping costs. The state spends an average of $30,000 a year to house, feed and care for an inmate — part of a corrections system that burns through $1 billion in every two-year budget and is projected to cost $600 million more over the next decade if nothing is done.

Last year, a commission appointed by Kitzhaber recommended giving judges more power over sentences as part of the answer.

But tinkering with Measure 11 is tricky. Voters overwhelmingly approved it. And prosecutors, a potent political power, say the measure has contributed to a drop in crime across Oregon. They argue that sentences have been reasonable and that only the worst felons face the measure’s brute force.

Defense attorneys vehemently disagree. They say too many defendants are getting prison terms harsher than necessary to protect the public and reform felons.

For Cramer, who rejected big city legal work to return to his roots in eastern Oregon, the issue is what is just.



FAMM Testifies at “Booker Fix” Hearing at U.S. Sentencing Commission April 15, 2012

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Attorney General race raises questions about Measure 11 April 12, 2012

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When Oregonians turn in their ballots this May they will elect a new top law enforcement official – the state attorney general.

As we approach the election, a debate is raging at the highest levels over the candidate’s stances on Measure 11, which imposes mandatory sentences for certain crimes.

One camp thinks the voter-approved law costs too much, while the other side thinks keeping violent criminals locked for long periods of time is the best way to keep our communities safe.

Candidate Ellen Rosenblum has found herself at the center of the debate as people question her position on the issue.

Amateur video shows Rosenblum speaking last month to the Multnomah County Prosecuting Attorney’s Association. She was asked whether she would support attempts to undo Measure 11.

“I’m not leaning at all towards severely weakening Measure 11,” she said.

Rosenblum is a long-time judge who served on the state appeals court. She talked about how Measure 11 took power away from judges to use discretion in sentencing violent criminals.

“You never heard me saying this was a terrible thing, we’ve had all our discretion taken away from us. That’s just not how I ever felt about it,” she said in the video.

But two days later, Rosenblum addressed Democrats in Washington County. There is an audio recording of that speech.

“I liked it a lot better pre-Measure 11 and the reason was it gave judges discretion to look at who a person was,” she said on the recording.

“I sometimes wondered why I was even sentencing the defendant in a case because the sentence was already kind of a done deal and it took the discretion away from judges,” she added.

We asked Rosenblum for an interview, but she only agreed to send us a prepared statement:

“As a trial court judge, I have imposed Measure 11 sentences, and I have a history of affirming Measure 11 convictions as an appellate court judge. As Attorney General, I will protect Oregonians by holding criminals accountable and making sure violent and sexual offenders are where they belong – behind bars.

“I want to clarify that my position on Measure 11 has not changed. It is critical that we take a tough stance on crime, but I am open to examining new ways of doing so that ensure that our scarce government resources are being used wisely.



Crack Pipeline Cases Go to Supreme Court April 10, 2012

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FAMM Update April 5, 2012

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From Julie Stewart, FAMM President:

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) is my new hero. He is singlehandedly preventing Congress from passing new bills to ban synthetic drug use. Sen. Paul does not want anyone to be harmed by dangerous drugs, of course, but he objects to these bills, in part, because they would extend the most punitive drug-related mandatory minimum to even more individuals. Unfortunately, he is getting some grief from constituents in Kentucky and colleagues in the Senate. But Sen. Paul is holding firm. According to one newspaper report, Sen. Paul “reiterated his main reason for holding up the synthetic drug legislation is penalties for drug law violations are ‘disproportionate’ to the crime and federal sentencing requirements don’t allow room for judicial discretion in sentencing. ‘The main reason we are opposing this is someone could be kept in prison for 20 years,’ Paul said.”

FAMM’s Director of Member Services, Andrea Strong, is a Kentucky resident. She shared her family’s painful experience with mandatory minimums in order to show support for Paul’s efforts. Because Sen. Paul is standing up for what’s right, FAMM is glad to stand with him.