Two Tacoma men associated with medical marijuana dispensaries in the South Sound were arraigned Friday in U.S. District Court, charged with conspiracy to distribute marijuana and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
James Canyon Lucas and Matthew Ira Eliott Roberts entered pleas of not guilty and were conditionally released, pending trial, by Judge Karen Strombom. A trial date was set for April 28 in Tacoma. Judge Ronald Leighton is scheduled to hear the case.
A third defendant, Lance Edward Gloor, did not appear in court and has a warrant out for his arrest. In addition to the first two charges, Gloor is charged with manufacturing marijuana and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug crime.
According to the federal government, the defendants were associated with medical marijuana dispensaries the Drug Enforcement Agency raided in fall 2011 and July 2013.
The trial promises to be closely watched because it’s the first marijuana dispensary case filed by the federal government since the state voted to legalize recreational marijuana in November 2012.
Marijuana still is illegal under federal law, and despite some assurances of a hands-off position, it remains unclear where the U.S. Attorney’s Office will draw the line in enforcing the federal Controlled Substances Act.
“Attorney General Eric Holder said he would leave the state alone,” said Tacoma attorney Sunni Ko, who is representing Lucas. “Well, it doesn’t look as if that’s the case.”
The federal indictment alleges the men’s offenses involved 1,000 kilograms or more of “a mixture or substance containing marijuana” and 1,000 or more marijuana plants — far more than allowed by state law.
At the time of the dispensary raids in 2011, Jenny Durkan, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Washington, 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.”
According to the indictment, federal agents seized $216,485 in cash from Seattle Cross, doing business as Tacoma Cross on July 24, 2013.
On the same day they seized $1,178 from Key Peninsula Collective, doing business as KPN Cross; and $65,126.74 from a Seattle Cross bank checking account.
Rob Carson: 253-597-8693