Reports are flooding in right now about widespread DEA raids at medical-marijuana dispensaries in the Seattle, Tacoma and Olympia areas. At least eight different dispensary storefronts have apparently been targeted.
Other sources confirm the dispensaries raided as: North End Club 420, Tacoma Cross, Lacey Cross, Olympia Patient Resource Center, The Healing Center of Olympia, both branches of the Seattle Cannabis Coop and the Seattle G.A.M.E. Collective.
Ben Livingston, board member of Cannabis Defense Coalition says he and others have been expecting this for awhile now, but "This is not a good use of our taxpayer dollars. This is not the change people want in the world. This is not the change people voted for."
More info will be posted as we get it.
UPDATE: Pot activist Steve Sarich shares this advice for dispensary owners who haven't been raided yet today.
"Close down," he says. "That would be my advice to people. Best case scenario they come in and rob you -- you lose any medication and whatever else you got."
"They're sending us a message. We're just not sure what the message is. None of us give a shit what he message is. We're going to fight them on it. Try to take down all of us. Go ahead. At some point in time our representatives in the state legislature and the Governor better stand up for our state's rights."
UPDATE: Cannabis patient and former longshoreman Guy Casey owns two dispensaries, including the North End Club 420, which was raided today.
He says his employee showed up for work shortly after 11 a.m. and...
"He opens door and turns on the light and there's five of them there standing behind him, with a news crew. They said they had a warrant and that he could leave. They made him leave his computer and cell phone. Another employee showed up and they asked him a few questions. They asked him his name and told him to get out of parking lot or they'd impound his truck."
Asked if he had any idea this was coming: "[Sheriffs deputies] came in a couple weeks ago. We invited 'em in and showed 'em our verification process. We told 'em we were a collective garden. They said they'd send a letter to our lawyer and he'd explain it to us. We asked if we should stay open or close and they didn't say anything, they just left." Says they never received the letter.
"We'd love to follow the rules, but we don't know what the rules are anymore."
UPDATE: Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes' spokesperson Kimberly Mills tells us that Holmes was not briefed on the Seattle raids ahead of time. Mills also says that the two dispensaries targeted are only a small fraction of the collectives that have applied for licenses.
Correction: An earlier version of this post mistakenly reported that Holmes was informed about the raids ahead of time. That's not the case. Apologies for the error.
"That's two targeted out of more than 100 identified medical marijuana dispensaries, two-thirds of which have applied for and received business licenses under the ordinance passed summer 2011 by City Council," Mills says.
UPDATE: The DEA just sent a statement to reporters regarding the raids.
It has never been our policy to target individuals with serious illnesses. However, there are those operating commercial storefronts cultivating, selling or distributing marijuana under the guise of state medical marijuana laws and exploiting such activities to satisfy their own personal greed. The DEA remains committed to the enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) in all states.
The coordinated enforcement actions of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and our state and local law enforcement partners involve violations of both federal and state law.
The DEA will exercise its investigative authority to pursue criminal actions for any violation of federal law, when warranted. This includes investigating organizations or individuals that grow, manufacture or distribute any illegal drug to include marijuana, and those who rent or maintain a property to facilitate drug trafficking.
(Lots of additional reporting by Keegan Hamilton)