Douglas Hiatt: Federal Raids Targeted Dispensaries That Were 'Out of Bounds'

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Attorney Douglas Hiatt has been a staunch defender of medical marijuana patients for 15 odd years. His late mother used pot to deal with the pain of cancer and Crohn's disease. Yet Hiatt allows that some of this week's raids on medical marijuana dispensaries targeted "out of bounds" activity.

Reading through affidavits from law enforcement officers, some of which can be found online, Hiatt says he saw allegations of "selling marijuana for profit to other people who were taking it out of state to sell it for profit."

In other words, if the allegations are true, the dispensaries weren't merely selling cannabis to cancer patients and others with serious medical conditions--the people that state voters wanted to help when they passed a medical marijuana law in 1998. Rather, the dispensaries were engaging in, as Hiatt puts it, "just pure trafficking."

See, for instance, the affidavit related to the investigation of Seattle Cannabis Co-op, which relays a conversation that allegedly occurred between a confidential source and SCC owner Jing Jing Mo.

The CS and Mo talked about doing more volume and the CS explained that he/she is going to be taking it to the mid-west. Mo told the CS to buy the "crappy" marijuana because they (customers in the mid-west) will think it is great.

Note Hiatt says law enforcement did not identify such flagrant law-breaking in most cases. He makes a distinction between the few raids conducted by the feds, which he sees as narrowly targeted at blatant transgressors, and the more prevalent raids carried out by local police forces and sheriff departments, which he argues were far more broad and unjustified.

Whether or not that dichotomy exists is unclear. The affidavit in the SCC case-- something of a hybrid in jurisdiction, since the named agent is a Kent cop working for a DEA task force-- goes out of its way to say that while all marijuana distribution is illegal under federal law, the current investigation is not targeting most dispensaries.

The targets of the investigation are entities and individuals that pretend to comply with Washington state's medical marijuana laws, but in reality are simply fronts for drug dealing, money laundering or other criminal offenses.

Some people in the activist community don't want to talk about these offenses. Speaking on the phone during a downtown protest of the raids yesterday, Ben Livingston of the Cannabis Defense Coalition says he sees a "divide and conquer" tactic at work in the attempt to vilify some dispensaries but not others.

He also assails the charge--made in documents supporting the raids and often heard by medical marijuana critics--that some people buying pot from dispensaries are not truly sick. "Who the fuck are you to say that?" You can't always tell by someone's outward appearance, Livingston says.

Hiatt, however, is not the only pot activist to acknowledge transgressions in the medical marijuana world. So, too, does John McKay, the former U.S. attorney who is supporting I-502, which would legalize and regulate marijuana. McKay, going much farther than Hiatt, has told SW he considers medical marijuana, by and large, "a sham."

Hiatt and McKay disagree sharply on the way to approach legalization. But both agree that we should just be honest about it--and let people smoke pot if they want to, whether or not they're sick.

 
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