Q & A with Todd Dalotto- Medical Marijuana Expert
Todd is an expert in medical marijuana and is lucky enough to live and work in a State that doesn’t attempt to arrest every person who uses cannabis for any reason. Texas could have experts like this, but they’d be arrested. It’s interviews like these that remind me I live in a police state with backwards laws. On to the interview-
1. Give me a short bio.
CAN! Research President, Todd Dalotto has a HBS in Horticultural Research from Oregon State University, Chairs Oregon’s Advisory Committee on Medical Marijuana (ACMM), Chairs the ACMM’s Horticulture, Research & Safety Committee, and authored The Hemp Cookbook: From Seed to Shining Seed (Inner Traditions, 2000). His vast experience in cannabis science, politics, and public policy includes founding America’s first hemp food business (Hungry Bear Hemp Foods), founding Oregon’s first medical clinic/support/education center (Compassion Center) for medical cannabis patients, and serving on legislative and administrative advisory committees for the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program under the Department of Human Services and the Oregon Health Authority. Todd is a valuable resource as a teacher, consultant, scientist, and court-qualified expert witness, specializing in Cannabis.
2. How did you get started in your field?
As a devious fifth-grader, I thought it would be funny to choose ‘marijuana’ as the topic of my first-ever research paper. Upon reviewing books I found in the library on the subject, I found that our nation’s founding fathers were farmers of both industrial hemp and marijuana, that cannabis hemp was a major US industry until the mid-20th century, and several other facts you may have heard from overzealous hempsters. My report quickly transformed from a juvenile ploy to my first academically-stimulating project. Unfortunately, my teacher didn’t check my sources and gave me a ‘D’ for making it up. This experience secured my lifetime commitment to the objective scientific investigation of cannabis.
Finding cannabis to be a subject of infinite scientific fascination, I founded our country’s first hemp food business, Hungry Bear Hemp Foods, authored the world’s first hempseed cookbook, The Hemp Cookbook: From Seed to Shining Seed, and created & developed some of the first marketable hemp food products, such as Hempseed Butter, Hemp Milk, and Seedy Sweeties. I was engaged in non-empirical horticultural research of industrial hemp and medicinal cannabis until field research was made possible with the passage of the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act in 1998.
I began public policy advising when asked to be part of an administrative workgroup for the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program soon after the program was created. This workgroup has since been formalized by the legislature as the Oregon Health Authority’s Advisory Committee on Medical Marijuana, which I currently serve as chair.
3. What services do you offer in a typical case?
I offer expert consulting, evidence review & reporting, court appearances, and oral & written depositions in cases involving cannabis. Due to a lack of training in plant sciences, law enforcement officers frequently make errors in gathering and interpreting evidence related to the use & production of marijuana. Evidence reports based upon my careful review of discovery are effective for revealing such errors and usually result in dropping charges or plea deals to a lesser charge. Because cases I work on rarely make it to trial (and thanks to email & teleconferencing) I’m able to work effectively for clients across the country from the comfort of my office in downtown Corvallis, Oregon. For cases that do make it to trial, I’m happy to travel wherever I’m needed.
4. What is something that most lawyers don’t know, or are surprised to find out?
Every defense attorney is familiar with the long list of items in search warrant affidavits that are allegedly used to commit cannabis-related crimes. What is surprising to many attorneys is that although such items are usually considered to be evidence of criminal activity, many items are necessary for the lawful use, storage, and production of medical marijuana. For example, an Oregon Medical Marijuana Program cardholder may legally possess 24 oz. of usable marijuana, but if caught with 24.1 oz., the same person could be charged with PCS. Therefore, it’s necessary for OMMP cardholders to possess an accurate digital or triple-beam scale in order to assure their legal compliance.
5. In Texas, the law still aims to arrest every person who uses marijuana, for any reason. You live in a state with more sensible reality based marijuana laws. Tell the audience what that is like. Has it improved the community’s relationship with law enforcement? How does it feel to have this one small bit of freedom back?
A widely clichéd side-effect of marijuana use is paranoia. I observed a rapid decline in this side-effect with medical marijuana patients since passage of the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act (OMMA) in 1998. With a marijuana arrest every 42 seconds in the US, wouldn’t use of marijuana make you paranoid? In all seriousness, the lack of fear of arrest has enhanced the efficacy and reduced the risk of using marijuana for seriously-ill patients, especially for those with anxiety, PTSD and seizure disorders.
The claim that marijuana prohibition causes far more harm to society & individuals than use of the plant itself is becoming less and less disputed. Because police officers, courts, and jails are seen as the perpetrators of these harms, the public trust of law enforcement & judiciary is badly scarred. Shortly after the passage of the OMMA, I began hearing reports of Oregon police pursuing criminals who burglarize medical marijuana gardens, and was relieved by this opportunity to restore public trust in these institutions. Prior to OMMA, marijuana growers were easy targets of criminals of all sorts because illegal marijuana growers wouldn’t risk calling the police. Progressive cannabis law reform offers law enforcement better opportunities to truly serve and protect all citizens.
OMMA’s passage in 1998 was an exciting opportunity for me to conduct horticultural field research of cannabis for the first time. Although OMMA doesn’t provide explicit protections for cannabis research, I’ve designed horticultural research protocol that operates within the limits of the OMMA. Because the plant & possession limits of the OMMA severely limit the potential for horticultural research, I wrote a legislative concept called the Oregon Medical Cannabis Research Act, which would allow state-licensed research facilities to grow & possess cannabis in amounts necessary for proper breeding & research. Although unsuccessful in the 2011 session, I hope to see parts of it included in a medical cannabis omnibus bill in the upcoming 2013 session.
6. Anything else?
Until recently, any mention of ‘medical use of marijuana’ or reference to state medical marijuana laws was barred from federal marijuana trials. In a federal case I testified in recently (US v Simmons), the defendant’s compliance with the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act was material in the case because in the application for search warrant, the DEA agent referenced the Ogden & Cole memos (which describe the U.S. DOJ’s criteria for pursuing medical marijuana growers as ‘clearly and unambiguously acting out of compliance with state medical marijuana law’) and predicted that when the defendants harvest their crop they will be out of compliance with the OMMA. This caused the judge to allow me to take the stand as an expert witness in this case to testify on the use & production of medicinal cannabis.