An Oregon man cited for illegal marijuana possession when officers discovered a small amount inside a backpack he brought inside a public building says his medical marijuana card gives him the right to carry the drug when he leaves his home.
SPRINGFIELD — An Oregon man cited for illegal marijuana possession when officers discovered a small amount inside a backpack he brought inside a public building says his medical marijuana card gives him the right to carry the drug when he leaves his home.
Paul McClain said police had no authority to ticket him last month at the Springfield Justice Center, which houses the city police station, jail and municipal court.
"I don't know why they think they can do this," McClain told The Register-Guard newspaper in Eugene. "It's my medicine."
But Springfield police say it's clearly illegal under state law for anyone — including a medical marijuana user — to bring pot into a public building, such as the justice center.
"Even if you have a medical marijuana card, you can't possess it in public," police Sgt. Tom Borchers said.
They may disagree on the pot possession issue, but McClain and police agree on the basic facts of the case.
McClain, 40, walked into the justice center on Feb. 11 to speak to a municipal court judge about unpaid traffic fines, during an unscheduled open court session.
A court worker advised McClain of the court's policy to search all bags before allowing someone into a courtroom. When McClain consented to the search, a court bailiff discovered the marijuana in his backpack.
Two Springfield police officers confirmed McClain's status as a state-issued medical marijuana cardholder and ordered him to take his pot out of the building.
But when a third officer more familiar with the marijuana law learned about the incident, he told his colleagues that they shouldn't have let McClain go without a citation.
He was cited outside the building after he had removed the marijuana and was returning to the municipal court.
McClain, who is unemployed, faces a $650 fine if convicted of the violation. He said he plans to plead not guilty to the charge during a March 15 appearance in Springfield Municipal Court.
Eugene attorney Brian Michaels, who serves on the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program's advisory committee, says the case may hinge on a municipal court judge's interpretation of what legally constitutes a public place where marijuana possession is forbidden.
Springfield police Capt. Rich Harrison said he doesn't believe McClain's argument will stand up in court.