Bounlith “Bong” Bouasykeo appeared in a Portland courtroom expecting to be sentenced for smuggling marijuana. The man had been convicted and now he would hear his fate. Then the judge entered and things began to change.
U.S. District Court Judge Michael Mosman delayed Bouasukeo’s sentencing on November 6 to weigh the effect of Oregon legalizing marijuana for adult use two days earlier. The judge recalled an argument made by defense attorney Matthew McHenry, who pointed out a change in Justice Department policy in Colorado after legalization passed in 2012.
“I’d be reluctant to sentence someone today,” Mosman said. “Then find out in a month that something like what happened in Colorado ends up happening here.” The former U.S. Attorney said he didn’t know about the Justice Department’s response and policy change in Colorado, but now he does. He wants to take time to see how things play out in Oregon.
The judge acknowledged that Bouasykeo’s isn’t a case of growing plants in Oregon, which would be legal now, but said the election victory may signal a change in penalties for related crimes. Assistant U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Barrow told the Court that he knows what the policy is and didn’t feel any change would affect this case. Judge Mosman clarified his thinking.
“I’d want to know whether I was about to sentence someone under a law that was going to change in a few weeks,” the judge said. He added that he is not surprised no changes have been made yet since the election was only two day prior. He also pointed out that these types of changes are above Barrow’s pay grade.
The Court heard arguments for and against the delay, but determined to wait. The judge apologized to the defendant, who was up from Texas for the one-day hearing, but said he feels the need to investigate further. The sentencing hearing was rescheduled for December 11.
The case is U.S.A. v. Bouasykeo.