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Feb-20-2008 15:10printcomments

MySpace, Medical Marijuana and Biker Clubs

Can MySpace friends equate to biker gang affiliation?
Les Lowen

(DALLAS, Ore.) - A Dallas Oregon man says he never expected to be in trouble for the company he keeps, especially at the age of 51. But some of Les Lowen's MySpace friends may have ties to biker clubs or "gangs," and he says the presence of those friends on his "top friends" list nearly landed him in jail.

Lowen was picked up on a drunk driving charge last year and the conviction meant a probation term. He says there is little in the way of delineation at the Polk County, Oregon Parole and Probation Office.

"Every time I go in there is a new probation officer. The last one threatened to throw me in jail for the people listed as top friends on MySpace. Heck, the person they referred to lives in New York."

Lowen says the amount of continual criminal profiling is out of line and he says that each time he checks in with his PO, he feels like he is being regarded as a hardened criminal, rather than a citizen with a fairly clean record, spare the DUII charge.

He also says it is ironic, "Each time I go in there they have no idea who I am. They just need to read the paperwork that goes along with the case to know I'm only there over a single DUII offense."

Les Lowen used to work hard every day, but his life changed dramatically last year, when he was involved in a serious, motorcycle crash.

"I lost three vertebrae in my back. I don't think I can ever ride again. My neck bothers me constantly."

And this leads to Lowen's second ongoing problem with the state of Oregon and Polk County in particular. Chronic pain from the motorcycle crash led to Lowen to become a legal, Oregon medical marijuana patient. He says it is one of the few things that brings relief to the lingering pain from the motorcycle crash.

But his pain has no sympathy from the Oregon court system in Dallas. The judge in the case allowed no provision for Lowen's pain management, they told him he can not use medical marijuana or he will be arrested and prosecuted. That, in spite of the fact that Oregon voters have not just once but twice to legalize medical marijuana for sick people.

Lowen says there is no answer in sight, so he simply quit using marijuana and his life is more painful than ever.

Marty Silbernagel, the head of Parole and Probation in Polk County, says the first point deals with the central law that medical marijuana is not legal on a federal level. State courts may or may not follow suit with the federal law, but in Polk County, Oregon, he says, they do.

"In Polk County medical marijuana is not allowed by our department staff and if anyone would like to take this up further with the court they can do so."

Silbernagel says one of their probationary clients just had a run in with authorities in a neighboring county, where he ended up in front of a judge.

"That court clearly and directly told the offender and his attorney that the state court would not authorize him to use marijuana. They said the man's doctor would need to go to court and be fully examined and cross examined on the witness stand, testifying as to why this patient needs medical marijuana."

"That individual was told that if he uses marijuana again, his probation will be revoked and then he will be back in front of a Polk County judge."

The riff between Lowen and Silbernagel's office is actually taking place on MySpace, where Lowen is soliciting help from people to get back on the road.

Lowen says it is a matter of respecting people, and about probation officers knowing who it is they are dealing with.

"In the 8 months I have been on probation, I have seen 6 different probation officers, so it has been impossible to establish any kind of working relationship with my probation officer."

"The PO knows nothing of my case, and nothing about me. I am treated as though I am a convicted felon each time I report, but my experience with Cindy Morse was a bit different. Ms. Morse had apparently looked up my MySpace page, and decided that, because I had some people on my friends list that belong to motorcycle clubs, I was a gang member (or at least affiliated). Ms. Morse immediately launched a verbal attack on me, accusing me of being a gang member, or an affiliate, no less than 6 times."

Silbernagel stands behind the statement. "If he thinks we do not have a right to oppose his views, as stated on his MySpace account, I disagree. Many of our offenders are regularly checked to see if they have a MySpace account."

He added that, "Several offenders have been in trouble for photos showing them using alcohol, using illegal drugs."

While Lowen's site did not show drug use or illegal activity, it does show his life as a motorcycle rider. That however by most people's accounts, does not equate to anything illegal. But Silbernagel sees it differently.

"If they have a friend who is a Hells Angel, a group invested in illegal activity, then that is a direct tie to illegal activity."

Lowen stresses though, that he is not and never has been involved in a criminal lifestyle, other than minor offenses like the DUII charge.

"I'm just a guy who was born and raised in Dallas, Oregon. I've never lived a criminal life."

He says the people that comprise his friend's list are from all over the country. Many of them are people he has never physically seen, but they all have a common interest in Harley Davidson motorcycles.

Lowen's story is one of many when it comes to problems associated with MySpace. Silbernagel says hundreds of thousands of investigations linked to activity on MySpace are underway.

"Those are all being investigated while we speak, and the public doesn't know yet." In fact he says that police, probation departments and courts use MySpace frequently to learn about the personal side of people they are dealing with.

And he says the people adversely affected by MySpace accounts at Polk County Parole and Probation are not all probationers.

"There are cases where famous people, government people, have MySpace accounts that come back to haunt them. In fact, I was ready to offer a position to a person who had a MySpace account that advocated marijuana use. When I saw that, a decision was made to not bring her aboard."

He finished by saying, "What is on your MySpace account, we go with."

Lowen and Silbernagel seem to agree on one thing; that is that people who use MySpace sometimes do not know what they are getting themselves into.

Tim King: Editor and Writer

Tim King has more than twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native serves as's Executive News Editor. Tim spent the winter of 2006/07 covering the war in Afghanistan, and he was in Iraq over the summer of 2008, reporting from the war while embedded with both the U.S. Army and the Marines. Tim is a former U.S. Marine.

Tim holds awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing, including the Silver Spoke Award by the National Coalition of Motorcyclists (2011), Excellence in Journalism Award by the Oregon Confederation of Motorcycle Clubs (2010), Oregon AP Award for Spot News Photographer of the Year (2004), First-place Electronic Media Award in Spot News, Las Vegas, (1998), Oregon AP Cooperation Award (1991); and several others including the 2005 Red Cross Good Neighborhood Award for reporting. Tim has several years of experience in network affiliate news TV stations, having worked as a reporter and photographer at NBC, ABC and FOX stations in Arizona, Nevada and Oregon. Tim was a member of the National Press Photographer's Association for several years and is a current member of the Orange County Press Club.

Serving the community in very real terms, is the nation's only truly independent high traffic news Website. As News Editor, Tim among other things, is responsible for publishing the original content of 91 writers. He reminds viewers that emails are easily missed and urges those trying to reach him, to please send a second email if the first goes unanswered. You can write to Tim at this address:

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chrisso December 17, 2010 12:03 am (Pacific time)

Sorry Les- Me I AM a convicted felon- for growing pot (just like the Army taught me to do- the best you can with what you have) when the OR Nat Guard wouldn't so much as send me to a doctor for my crippled shoulder. Sure enough, I'm a gun-toting pot farmer, is what my record says. (I have a host of other problems, too- broke my back 3 times, etc.) I got knifed in the heart in 2007 for my plants- I just barely survived. At least I didn't get busted too (the plants were legal TG). The local gang in Siletz wouldn't leave me alone (and still won't)- sure enough I got popped for a weapons violation. Drew 3 yrs probation and got "guaranteed" that next time it's prison. For trying to keep from getting murdered some more. The prob dept gave me 3 days to get rid of the plants. Ever try completely revamping your medical treatment in 3 days- or getting a doctor appointment for that matter? I guess you have, though, huh? I almost died twice from trying to use pills, and spend hundreds on Marinol... the Siletz gang drove by my house laughing. The "thing" that stabbed me chatted me up at my front gate a couple months later- the cops didn't send a car. Most recently I've been told I'm "on thin ice" for not letting them move into my driveway or keep their dogs under the trash trailer I have to keep parked in front of my house so I can use the parking spaces i OWN. I wonder what the cops would do if they knew damned well that the same guys were planning to rob the pharmaceutical company again and kill the employees in the process? Hey, if it isn't legal, why did they sell me a permit for my prescription? Nothing else works- I've tried it ALL, over 20 years, ten of that in college- finest minds, wisest physicians. We have to keep them from ruining any more lives because they can't seem to decide which end of the chicken is which. I was a weapons specialist for Roseburg, volunteered for Desert Storm. And then an Israeli Colonel says on TV that "Americans can't shoot worth a damn." You have to wonder how many troops have died because they didn't have the best instructors? One is far too many. Me, I'm looking into hanging around a bike club for the protection the law doesn't wish to provide. I don't think that not wanting to get murdered anymore should make me a criminal- if I wanted to be a criminal I wouldn't have gotten the permit, would I? I'm not stupid, either (some 450 cred of college, Gold Key, Phi Theta Kappa)- I just have had no other choice. Unless you count death as a choice. Anyway- I know your plight. Maybe I can help, somehow. Please let me know if I can.

Matt Johnson March 11, 2008 2:14 pm (Pacific time)

Richard Steeb has it right, dude you can lay it down!

papamike69 March 11, 2008 5:47 am (Pacific time)

To D. Fredricks comment. Yes he did brake the law. It was very stupid for him to drive in under the influence. Yes he should, and is receiving a punishment. However, Les Lowen is still a human being, one that made a mistake, but nun the less a human being that has rights. The point is that every person, in jail or out, on probation or not, should have a basic right to prescribed medication. Secondly, just because a man has a conversation with a person that may, or may not have tie's to criminal activities does not constitute guilt by association. It's funny how law enforcement can't protect my fifteen year old daughter from being seduced and molested by all sorts of child predictors on my space, but they can persecute a man for having questionable friends there.

Richard Steeb March 2, 2008 8:36 am (Pacific time)

Power-drunk PO makes medical decisions. What an ass. Cannabis IS medicine, and the Federal law is a damned lie. Word.

Siskyou Kid February 24, 2008 1:59 pm (Pacific time)

"If they have a friend who is a Hells Angel, a group invested in illegal activity, then that is a direct tie to illegal activity." Sooooooooo.... if this is the case, then when a cop messes up and gets caught havin' sex with a teenager, or sellin' confiscated dope, then all his pals on the force are just as much involved in said "direct tie to illegal activity."...are you kidding me??...and this cat is in charge of peoples lives?? pfffffffffftt.....Marty Silbernagel, yer a real tool, goofball!!! And if thats how you base an opinion of people, then I think your in the wrong profession and have screwed up alot of people's lives already!!! "He finished by saying, "What is on your MySpace account, we go with." Yet another very, very weak point to hear for anyone with authority and control of others lives...Well folks, you can always lock up your Myspace accounts so no one can look at them unless they are on you buddy list... God Speed Les....your my kinda folks, stay safe and alert!!! Southern Oregon Shoutin' Out..

Kevin February 24, 2008 9:02 am (Pacific time)

The power of probation officals may need more oversight from what I see here. Good luck Les.

Christina February 24, 2008 2:50 am (Pacific time)

Driving while intoxicated is entirely unacceptable because it poses a very real threat to others. Hopefully, Mr. Lowen takes a good look at the seriousness and potential consequences of his actions That said, I don't see how depriving Mr. Lowen of his doctor-recommended medication will benefit society or help Mr Lowen appreciate the seriousness of his actions. In fact, depriving Mr. Lowen of his medication is cruel, unusual and BARBARIC.

D. Fredricks February 23, 2008 9:37 am (Pacific time)

ok, a couple of things. First- the man is on PROBATION- he committed a crime and, instead of going to jail, they have him on SUPERVISION... would he have access to Mj in jail? nope.... Also, isn't there a pill form of the THC compound that is prescribed? ... As far as a right to Myspace... go back to point one.... Les agreed to probation... remember, this guy was driving drunk on city or state roads, where you and your family drives too... I'm tired of criminals being cast as victims... he did the crime, let him do the time... even if it means he can't get on myspace for a while.

Anne February 23, 2008 9:37 am (Pacific time)

I had personal information available on the internet questioned in a job interview, I would certainly expect that if I had a P.O., they'd be interested too. And I'm a bit disappointed in how Mr. Lowen's comments and this article minimize the seriousness of a DUII. He may not be a "convicted felon", but he certainly committed a deplorable offense that could've had much worse consequences than a little bit of grief from a P.O. about his myspace page.

Jenny February 23, 2008 12:31 am (Pacific time)

Response to Helen: I belive I was thinking of the Statesman Journal at the time.

Real American February 22, 2008 11:42 am (Pacific time)

Marty Silbernagel is an idiot that may wind up costing his county big bucks if he screws with just the right person. If I lived in Polk County, I'd drag his self-righteous ass into court for the next ten years.

A. Stern February 22, 2008 10:30 am (Pacific time)

The War on Medical Marijuana Patients, especially in the 12 states where medical marijuana is legal, is a modern day witch-hunt, pure and simple. With reputable health organizations, like the American College of Physicians and the New England Journal of Medicine, supporting medical marijuana, it is indeed inhumane and probably criminal this judge and social worker are preventing Mr.Lowen from following his doctor's recommendation. Hopefully, some attorneys will see what is at stake here and help this man re-establish his right to his doctor-recommended medicine.

Helen February 22, 2008 8:47 am (Pacific time)

Jenny-Ultra-conservative news! Where and who?

Compassionate ear February 22, 2008 7:59 am (Pacific time)

Les, I am disheartened to hear your story. I am a Probation Officer in Canada. What is happening to you is simply wrong and very poor case management. Moreover I believe your civil rights are being hugely violated. You should get a lawyer who has civil right expertise and go after the State and the Probation office. Particulary about the use of medically prescribed marijuana. That is clearly discrimination based on a physical disability. Your Probation Office sounds like it is a mess..they are probably understaffed and overworked,, because i have seen that type of thing before where a client gets seen by several differnt POs. You should have one PO who gets to know your situation and does a proper assessment of your case. That way they understand what your actual risk to reoffend really is. The issue with the ties to criminal gangs is really a joke. Particulalry because of MY Space friends. If they have any sense they would be in contact with local, state, and federal authorities to see if you are a known associate to any biker or other criminal gangs. Police know who gang members are or who they associate with regularly...My Space is not a reliable source of info to be making an assessment in most cases. Take it to them and good luck..

Jenny February 21, 2008 11:29 am (Pacific time)

Thanks Tim...for rushing in where the "ultra-conservative news" fears to tread.

Tara February 21, 2008 10:16 am (Pacific time)

Les, I am so happy you are finally making waves about Polk County. Gang member? Ha ha ha! Those rinky-dink power-drunk PO's watch way too much TV. Jenny, you look so beautiful!

ROBERT LEE February 20, 2008 6:43 pm (Pacific time)


Les Lowen February 20, 2008 5:24 pm (Pacific time)

Thank you Tim. It is nice to know there is a news source in salem that doesn't only print what furthers their own agenda. You folks do a great job. Keep up the great work. Keep your head down when you go abroad. Here is the link to the myspace page you wrote about. Les Lowen's MySpace page

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.