Three Florida men were cited and released on “multiple felony charges” following a traffic stop on Highway 201 on Oct. 15 during which Oregon State Police troopers found 47.3 pounds of marijuana. A fourth man was lodged in the Malheur County Jail for a nationwide felony warrant for counterfeiting, held by the U.S. Marshal Service.
According to the narrative summary on this week’s OSP Daily Media/Desk Logs, a traffic stop of a black Jeep Compass with Washington license plates led to a consent search of the vehicle.
That search turned up about 47.3 pounds of “green bud marijuana,” reads the summary. According to the summary, the men were cited and released “due to COVID-19 restrictions.”
The jail is turning people away, but they do so according to notices sent previously to local departments describing who they will and will not lodge during their COVID restrictions, explained Malheur County District Attorney David Goldthorpe. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, it was not typical to cite and release for class C felonies, but that is now the case for the majority of misdemeanors and class C felonies in order to help keep the population at the jail lower. A lot of those cases are being setover or defendants are appearing telephonically, Goldthorpe said.
All the Florida men are facing charges, including the driver, Orlando Comings Garcia, 50, of Tampa; and his passengers, Raidel Diaz-Guzman, 32, Alexander D. Echemendia, 38, and Carlos Andres Valera, 39, all of Miami.
Diaz-Guzman was held on the felony warrant.
According to State Police, each man is facing charges of import/export of marijuana items over 16 oz usable, conspiracy and possession of marijuana over 128 oz in a public place.
Goldthorpe said that when voters made recreational marijuana legal in 2014 many connected rules changed, including for some charges, such as possession of a substantial quantity as a commercial drug offense, which would have previously been a class B felony.
“It changed punishments for things that remained crimes and created new crimes,” he explained.
Those new crimes centered around the fact that marijuana would be produced in the state, and included punishments for such things as permitting, transportation, safety, exporting and possession of illegal quantities.
Personal possession limits in public places (which includes highways and streets) outside the home is one ounce of usable marijuana (also known as dried flowers or leaves that are ready to smoke) per person, according to the OLCC.
Other marijuana products (solids, liquids, extracts, concentrates, plants and seeds), each have their own limits.
The amount the four Florida men were caught with on Oct. 15 was “higher than the personal amount for sure,” Goldthorpe said. Although he hasn’t seen any specifics on this case yet, he said that sometimes people who get caught with more than allowed will still try to claim it was a “personal supply.”
However, the district attorney said, “it is not difficult for us to put an expert on the stand and provide evidence showing the difference between an amount for personal use and an amount that exceeds that.”