Medical pot shops raided Wednesday had history with federal DEA; warrants continue

Staff writerJuly 25, 2013 

26Marijuana

Federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents seized this catamaran (right) on Thursday evening, July 25, 2013.

TONY OVERMAN — Staff photographer Buy Photo

All four of the medical marijuana dispensaries raided Wednesday by federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents have been in trouble with the feds before.

The four dispensaries — Seattle Cross, Tacoma Cross, Lacey Cross and Bayside Collective in Olympia — were among about two dozen medical marijuana establishments in the Puget Sound area that were raided by federal agents in November 2011.

Emily Langlie, spokeswoman for the United States Attorney’s Office, said Thursday that language in search warrant affidavits issued at the time of the 2011 raids still applies in terms of explaining why those particular dispensaries were targeted again.

The warrants said the business attracted the attention of federal law enforcement for a number of reasons, including their failure to abide by state medical marijuana guidelines, indications they were distributing large amounts of drugs and evidence they were laundering large amounts of money.

U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan so far has not issued a statement on this week’s raids, but Langlie said a statement made by Durkan in 2011 still applies.

At that time, Durkan said, “We will not prosecute truly ill people or their doctors who determine that marijuana is an appropriate medical treatment. However, state laws of compassion were never intended to protect brash criminal conduct that masquerades as medical treatment.”

Jodie Underwood, a spokeswoman for the Seattle DEA office, provided little additional information on the raids Thursday, saying only, “This is an ongoing and active investigation.”

Underwood did make an effort to calm concerns that federal agents were making a widespread sweep on all medical marijuana establishments, fears based on rumors of additional search warrants being served on Thursday.

“With regard to reports that we’re out there again today,” Underwood said, “we have conducted some follow-up search warrants, but they were not on marijuana storefronts.”

She confirmed Thursday night that a boat was seized in Olympia as part of the investigation, in preparation for forfeiture proceedings.

DEA agents reportedly gathered pot, personal cellphones and computers. No criminal charges have been made so far.

Jay Berneburg, a Tacoma attorney who represents owners of more than 200 medical marijuana establishments, said Wednesday’s raids were a shock to the medical marijuana community.

“Everybody was kind of freaked out, thinking the DEA was launching some kind of new offensive,” Berneburg said. “The people in this business are paranoid. They have a heightened sense of alertness. When something like this happens, their skin crawls.”

Berneburg, who does not represent any of the raided businesses, said he sees no indication that the federal government is changing its policy on medical marijuana enforcement.

“They’ve been pretty good to their word,” he said. “They don’t want to enforce these marijuana laws any more than we want them to. But if you do something stupid and make them arrest us, they will.”

Rob Carson: 253-597-8693

rob.carson@thenewstribune.com

Staff writer Alexis Krell contributed to this report

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