The future has looked brighter
Updated Wednesday at 2 p.m.: Steve Elliott has responded to the DEA warrant news on his blog Toke of the Town.
The future has looked brighter
About 80,000 copies of Seattle Weekly hit newsstands every Wednesday, and court documents indicate that at least one issue ended up in the hands of a local narcotics detective working for a DEA task force. Sorry, Seattle Cannabis Co-Op.
Two of the dispensaries raided yesterday in the Puget Sound-area by federal law-enforcement agents were Seattle Cannabis Co-Op's Beacon Hill and Ballard locations. A search warrant affidavit filed yesterday in Western Washington federal court references ads in both this publication and The Stranger, and quotes our esteemed dispensary reviewer Steve Elliott.
Page 47 of the March 22, 2011 issue of SW contains an ad for Seattle Cannabis Co-op that touts their selection of strains and website. Opposite that is Elliott's "Toke Signals," column. Perhaps because our critic's palate is so refined, the feds opted to quote from his piece, which is headlined, "Bringing Buds to Ballard."
"In this article, the author discussed buying various varieties of marijuana, including 'Pineapple Express' ('frankly a bit disappointing, feeling underpowered at $13 a gram'), 'Dankest Kahn,' ('has a pleasantly spicy taste and rapid onset, but limited sustain'), and 'Hawaiian Snow,' ('a good buy at $8 a gram, which looked and tasted like a slightly early harvest.')"They also took note of other ads for Seattle Cannabis Co-Op (shortened to SCC in the affidavit), particularly the ones that "featured various women dressed in a somewhat tight nurse outfit, holding a clipboard listing the varieties and prices."
The document was authored by David Trogdon, a Kent Police officer assigned to a DEA-affiliated drug task force based in SeaTac. Pot is technically legal in Washington and Trogdon took an oath to uphold state law, but he writes that his participation in the sting is permissible because the targets do not "comply with the letter and the spirit of existing state law."
The SCC's website, as Trogdon notes, identifies the outfit as "a non-profit community of medical marijuana patients who support each other for safe and easy access to medical marijuana." But after several months of surveillance and multiple undercover buys, Trogdon isn't buying it.
Despite their proclaimed non-profit status, authorities allege that SCC owner Jing Jing Mo has deposited $83,820 cash in two SCC bank accounts since January. Also named in the affidavit are SCC employee Luis Garcia, and Mo's boyfriend Craig Diffenbach. The former owner of the Columbia City Theater, Diffenbach is allegedly a partner in the business, but his name is kept off the books because he recently declared bankruptcy. He owes $3.2 million to the estate of Jimi Hendrix because he marketed a brand of vodka named after the rock star without seeking permission or paying for the trademark.
On August 17, the drug task force set up cameras that allowed them to keep an eye on both dispensary locations. That same day, they sent an anonymous informant to buy a pound of pot from Mo. According to the court documents, this source tipped off the cops about SCC because of a belief that they were "flagrantly violating" state law. Their misdeeds allegedly include personally selling to people without green cards, transporting pot across state lines, and dealing in quantities beyond what Washington statutes allow.
The informant wore a wire to the meet-up on August 17, and approached the dispensary owner about buying 25 pounds to ship to the Midwest. Mo allegedly replied that she was cutting back on wholesale sales, and had stopped fronting people "because after a few months they end up stealing from you." Mo also suggested buying the "crappy" pot because customers in flyover country can't spot the difference.
Mo sold the informant -- who did not have a medical card, according to the affidavit -- four 1/4 pound bags of Grape Ape, Northern Lights, Master OG and Super Skunk for $2,950.The same source came back later and purchased another five pounds. On September 14, an undercover drug task force member went to the Ballard store and bought an ounce, again presumably without the proper paperwork.
According to Trogdon's account, SCC was doing quite well for itself. In addition to a grow house on South Pearl Street staked out by detectives, they also purchased large quantities from suppliers in Oregon and California, which were then allegedly smuggled back by Diffenbach. The agents also overheard talk of plans to open a third storefront in White Center, but the owners were unsure how they would be received by King County Sheriffs. Apparently it was the DEA they should have been concerned about.