Teen Faces Year in Jail Over 0.035 Ounces of Pot

In Oregon, where recreational marijuana is legal
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 28, 2016 8:45 AM CDT
Native American Teen Could Get Year in Jail for Gram of Pot
Is a joint worth a year in jail for a young man from Oregon?   (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Oregon is one of four states (and DC) where recreational marijuana is legal, but because of dueling state and federal laws, a 19-year-old Native American could face a $1,000 fine and a year in prison over a gram of pot—or 0.035 ounces, enough for roughly three joints. Devontre Thomas is set for federal trial for the 2015 incident in Salem, Ore., when a classmate at the Chemawa Indian School was caught with the pot in his backpack and said Thomas sold it to him, reports the Guardian. "I can't figure out why they are going after this youth—it literally makes no sense," says the legal director of Oregon's ACLU, adding that a conviction for the misdemeanor charge of "knowingly and intentionally" possessing the pot could make it more difficult for Thomas to get a job or college loans.

The Willamette Week notes it's the first time in three years that the federal government is taking on someone in Oregon for pot possession, an odd development considering a 2013 "marijuana enforcement" memo from the US deputy attorney general noted feds typically leave "lower-level" or "localized" pot transgressions to state and local law enforcement. Lawyers tell the Week what complicates matters is that the school is managed by the federal Bureau of Indian Education. Which leaves the discrimination claims. "There's absolutely racial disparity in how these cases are charged," says a lawyer at a Portland firm that takes on pot cases, and BuzzFeed notes in Colorado, pot arrest rates have dropped for white teens since the drug was legalized, while arrest rates for black and Latino teens have substantially increased. Thomas refused to plead guilty; his trial is set for Sept. 13. (More Native Americans stories.)

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