Native American Oregon Teen Busted with One Gram of Marijuana Faces Federal Charges

The war on weed continues, even in a state where it's been legalized.


A Federally prosecuted dusting
Erik Fenderson/Wikimedia Commons

19-year-old Devontre Thomas of was busted at his Oregon boarding school for possessing one gram of marijuana, about the same amount pictured in the photo to the right, or as Leah Sottile of Willamette Week writes, "barely enough cannabis to dust the bottom of a Ziploc."

How is it possible that an adult in a state which voted to legalize recreational marijuana use — and which is set to host a cannabis competition at its upcoming state fair — could be facing a year in prison for a minuscule amount of weed?

The simple answer is that marijuana remains a Schedule I narcotic in the eyes of the federal government, which like heroin and cocaine is deemed by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to have "no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse." Add to that the strange circumstance of the minimum legal age to possess marijuana in Oregon being 21, which makes Thomas an adult legal offender in the eyes of the law, even if he's infantilized by the age restriction.

The more complicated answer deals with the strange and less well-known conundrum of the legal jurisdictions on Indian reservations. Thomas' alleged indiscretion took place at the Chemawa Indian School, which is administered by the Bureau of Indian Education, which answers to (you guessed it) the federal government. And federal law calls for up to a year in prison and $1,000 in fines for the possession of any amount of marijuana.

Willamette Week writes that Thomas' predicament is a "poster case for how the nation's drug laws are still stacked against minorities—especially Native Americans" and quotes Portland-based lawyer Amy Margolis as saying, "There's absolutely racial disparity in how these cases are charged…[Thomas] had the bad luck of being where and who he was."

Thomas has refused to plead guilty, which in a great many situations for a young first-time offender would result in a deferred adjudication (meaning no conviction) and no permanent stain on his criminal record. But because the alleged crime is being prosecuted federally, copping a plea means Thomas forfeits any future government assistance, including housing and student loans.

As Mario Machado writes in the Mimesis Law blog:

So even if the federal judge is not inclined to send Thomas to prison as part of his punishment for having the temerity of possessing some demon weed, Thomas' plea can have some serious, irreversible, collateral consequences. Just like possession of an atom of any drug, 20 grams of weed can translate to a lifetime of banishment from this country for the undocumented. Thomas would have to bear the consequences of his plea well after he completed his sentence. This is not exaggeration, or unnecessarily amplifying the consequences of Thomas' conviction. We're only pointing out what's on the books and in store for Thomas well after he has completed his plea colloquy before the judge.

KGW-TV, which first broke the story, shared the U.S. Attorney's official charges against Thomas (filed over a year after the alleged offense took place in March 2015), which you can view below:

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  1. Marijuana is quite properly scheduled as it is, according to the DEA definitions. It is the definitions themselves that are arbitrary and useless–as well, of course, as the existence of the DEA itself criminally harmful and ethically offensive.

    1. Marijuana is quite properly scheduled as it is, according to the DEA definitions.

      Except for all the widely recognized medical uses for marijuana, which the DEA chooses to ignore.

    2. False. Schedule I asserts no medical use whatsoever, which is at odds with current scientific research regarding control of spasticity from MS, appetite control for AIDS wasting, control of siezures, and on and on and on.

      1. Correct. It does not say no medical benefits; it says no medical use.
        THC itself is Schedule IV. Marijuana extract is Schedule IV. Only the plant itself is I, reflecting the fact that there is no reason to use it in light of the fact (scheduling reflects sociological facts as much as pharmacological ones) that the other products exist.
        Carefully and consistently titrated products are what make appropriate instruments of modern medicine, not a general raw herbal species that can contain God knows what. As long as these products exist, they will be the stuff of actual medical use. Do you really think hospital corridors 50 years from now will be choked with J smoke? No, their marijuana, as it is appropriate, will be administered in precise pharmacological products. And these products should be scheduled IV, while the raw plant remains I as there is no reason to use it. (The products’ lack of availability, and proper range of approved use, at the present is what is wrong from a medical treatment perspective.)

        1. a general raw herbal species that can contain God knows what

          I don’t even begin to understand how a thought this stupid passes out of a human brain. What the fuck?

          1. That was nasty and uncalled for. But in case you need further information, please refer to any number of pro-pot references that will gush about all the thousands of pharmacologically active compounds contained in the plant in varying degrees from sample to sample. Plants be like that, you know. That’s why aspirin tablets are an improvement on chewing on bark.
            For another illustration of the real meaning of “no medical use,” observe that (unlike cocaine and meth) heroin is Schedule I. Nobody would ever suggest that heroin does not have medical benefits. And if it were the only opiate available, it would not belong on that list. However, others are available to provide the same benefits; consequentially no doctor would prescribe heroin as a painkiller. Hence, Schedule I.

            1. And yet bark is not a Schedule I drug.

              1. Right you are. For the same reason that aspirin, its active ingredient, is not a controlled substance at all–namely, it has no recreational appeal. That is another necessary condition of every drug under current discussion. Nobody ever said “no medical use” was a sufficient condition for Schedule I.

                1. That’s just specious bullshit. First, the law says “potential for abuse” not “recreational appeal”. Yet how many people get liver failure from NSAIDs each year? And with the whole “obesity epidemic” doesn’t food qualify? Except it’s been specifically excluded from the statute, just like marijuana has been specifically elevated by the statute, because it’s just pulled from some legislators’ asses.

                  And your “but plants can contain anything OMG” was what I most called out. The plant contains plant material. What matters are the extracts, not the plant itself, and that is the closest thing to a “legitimate” reason for scheduling marijuana. Which is why I also mentioned the poppy plant.

                  And the whole “medical use” vs “medical benefit” distinction is yet more specious bullshit.

                  1. Right you are again. It says “potential for abuse,” not “danger.” The DEA is contrasting “medical use” with “abuse.” Technically speaking, you are “abusing” a drug if you take it for reasons other than it was intended. That means any recreational use, even if it does nothing to hurt you. The dangers of NSAIDs (by which I think you mean Tylenol) are irrelevant to the discussion.
                    The DEA does not have authority over food. That is by statute. It is not some sort of general social-harm prevention agency; it is an agency for controlling recreational drugs. Minus alcohol and tobacco. You are making the same mistake many do when I discuss this subject with them, namely thinking that I am somehow defending the DEA scheduling as somehow principled or sensible. I am doing nothing of the kind. As far as I am concerned the DEA’s description of Schedule I might just as well read, “…and any drug ending in ‘ijuana.'” I would simply say the same thing: Marijuana is properly scheduled under the definition; and the definition is stupid and arbitrary. Why doesn’t the DEA regulate food? Because it doesn’t. The fact that you are bringing that up reveals that you are not asking the relevant questions in the first place.

            2. And if you want to play the “technically correct” version of this game, the opium poppy is only Schedule II even though heroin is a direct byproduct of it.

              1. That’s Check, and Mate.

                1. No, it isn’t. Opium poppies have a single active ingredient, morphine. They are Schedule II because morphine is. Mere different outward forms of a drug are not scheduled differently from others. But the marijuana plant per se is not merely a different vector of the drug THC, or even of a specific, consistent mixture of the various cannabinoids, such as you get in the commercially produced extracts that are approved for medical use. It is, technically speaking, not the same pharmacological product. It’s a subtle difference, but it’s there and that’s all that matters.
                  The problem a lot of people have with this is that, indeed, it’s not a distinction that makes any sense as having any importance. It’s weird, arbitrary, and trivial. But the lesson here is that the entire system is irredeemably so.

                  1. I can put poppy seeds on a bagel without asking for DEA permission first, so obviously there’s more than one thing that can be done with the opium poppy. And you don’t just stick a poppy plant in a grinder and get morphine out. It’s an extract. And it doesn’t take much to go from morphine to heroin, not that it matters since both are painkillers and both are addictive.

                    You keep saying it doesn’t make sense yet you keep bizarrely trying to explain how and why it does make sense. Even though it doesn’t.

                    It is all arbitrary.

                    1. You can also grow them in your garden or wear them in your pretty, pretty hair. I did not say there was only one thing you could do with poppies; I said there was only one pharmacologically active ingredient in them. And, yes, poppies contain morphine. That is their active ingredient. And yes, if you smoke opium it is morphine molecules that are entering your body and eventually affecting your brain. Heroin is not the same thing. Uses, production technology, “both are painkillers and both are addictive”: You keep bringing up things that have no relevance to what I am discussing.
                      It is indeed all arbitrary, as I have been insisting repeatedly. The distinctions made by the DEA are discernible; they are just not remotely useful or principled–indeed sensible–in any way.

    3. It helps that they will never find medical uses for Schedule I drugs because it is illegal for the government to fund or permit research on them.

    4. the holy crusade against cannabis has another victim

  2. But Chocolate Nixon will issue a pardon, post haste. No need to worry!

  3. The simple answer is that marijuana remains a Schedule I narcotic in the eyes of the federal government, which like heroin and cocaine is deemed by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to have “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

    Cocaine is actually Schedule II, because there are a few recognized medical uses of it, like numbing your eyeballs.

    1. Cocaine is II. Meth is II–it’s an ADD treatment like other amphetamines, for one thing. Most hallucinogens are I. Scheduling has nothing to do with danger per se (although official DEA public information bizarrely asserts so alongside the completely incompatible language of the actual definitions).
      It’s the hallucinogens, not raw herbal cannabis, that truly deserves to be downscheduled (not that scheduling makes any sense as public policy in the first place, of course). But, of course, better proof of their psychiatric benefits is hampered by their very scheduling.

  4. And federal law calls for up to a year in prison and $1,000 in fines for the possession of any amount of marijuana.

    That sounds reasonable.

    1. That’s sarcasm, i hope.

  5. It is unfortunate that very few people know how to defend themselves in situations such as this. The question here is, what man is going to testify that he has been wronged. The “United States of America” is not a man and cannot testify and, obviously, neither can its attorneys. Case dismissed/discharged.

    1. The “United States of America” is actually a woman, as in this refrain from one of the songs we sing to make ourselves feel great:

      “Stand behind her, and guide her…”

      As a woman anything she testifies to is presumed to be valid, therefore – guilty!

      1. Haha. Funny

  6. Slammer was asking what sort of people go under cover as agents of the state to bust restaurants who serve alcohol to patrons under the age of 21.

    Same question can be applied here. What sort of prosecutor files such idiotic charges and keep a straight face or honestly believe he or she is doing a service to society?

    That they get to hide behind bull shit semantics and definitions is not an excuse.

    1. “I’ve sentenced boys younger than you to the gas chamber. I didn’t want to do it. Felt I owed it to them.”

    2. I actually do wonder about it when it comes to federal prosecutors. I get why DAs do stupid shit like this; they do it to show they’re tough on crime and to up their conviction rates (after plea bargains) to further their political careers. But in FedGov, I don’t get it.

      1. I think it’s just your hardcore law’n’order types. They don’t even necessarily agree with the law, but the idea of flouting it, or administering it in anything less than the most hardcore fashion imaginable, is anathema to them. They believe that the only alternative to brutal and total enforcement of every law, is Mad Max-style anarchy. Thin blue line between civilization and chaos.

        This perversity used to be largely confined to the right, and you still see it in the cop-worshipers and some of the, “what part of illegal don’t you understand!” when talking about immigrants. But as leftists get more and more of their preferred platforms enacted into law, it has now infected them, as well, to where, once again, there is functionally no difference between the two great warring tribes.

  7. What’s kind of major dick turns someone in for a gram of pot. That Asshole is the menace. Lock that person up instead

    1. The kind that doesn’t like to think.

  8. At least he’s learning the metric system.

    1. There are two types of countries in the world. Those that use the metric system, and those that have put a man on the moon.

      1. Moonwalkers does a nice job of tying the two topics together.

  9. I can’t wait till all law enforcement is federal.
    No more injustice!

  10. We can all sleep safely now knowing this ruthless terrorist has been put behind bars.

  11. Posted this in the ‘Obo the Magnanimous’ thread after it had died:

    I see no one has yet done so:

    “Federal: “Fifty percent (95,800) of sentenced inmates in federal prison on September 30, 2014 (the most recent date for which federal offense data are available) were serving time for drug offenses (table 12, appendix table 5). In comparison to the 53% in state prisons, violent offenders represented 7% of the federal prison population (14,000 prisoners).”

    It isn’t clear, but for argument’s sake, lets presume the violent/no-violent ratio holds for the druggies and that the drug laws themselves were not the cause for that violence.
    So, 95,800 / 2 = 47,900 X 93% = 44,547 non-violent drug offenders in prison, and Obo, in his wisdom, kinda-sorta ‘releases’ 200 of them, something near 1/2 of 1%.
    Did the prison guards union get final say?

  12. Fear in the air, tension everywhere
    Unemployment rising fast, the Beatles’ new record’s a gas
    And the only safe place to live, is on an Indian reservation
    And the band played on

  13. If he couldn’t do the time he shouldn’t have sponsored terrorism and gotten teens pregnant.


  14. Good thing MJ is “legal”, huh?

  15. “Oh, no, Br’er Fox, don’t take away my student loans, where else will I be able to incur nondischargeable debt?”


  17. It’s an awful story. In order not to face federal charges it’s better to deal with fully online and legal clinics. For instance I have never had any problem with 420evaluationsonline.com The managers are licensed and kind. The process is fast and simple and the prices are affordable.

  18. It’s an awful story. In order not to face federal charges it’s better to deal with fully online and legal clinics. For instance I have never had any problem with http://www.420evaluationsonline.com The managers are licensed and kind. The process is fast and simple and the prices are affordable.

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