Just how far was the Thurston County Narcotics Task Force willing to go to bust the Olympia Patient Resource Center? According to court documents, a trio of investigators used undercover identities to obtain medical pot prescriptions and gain access to the dispensary. Now the business owners face a barrage of criminal charges, and one attorney claims the cops' questionable tactics crossed the line.
As Seattle Weekly reported in the days following the raids, in August three TNT detectives obtained their medical documents at South Sound Medicine, self-described "alternative medicine activists" with offices in Lacey and Vancouver. The task force agents then made several undercover purchases from the Lacey Care dispensary, according to their affidavit.
Now it seems that Lacey Cross wasn't the only dispensary on the receiving end of surreptitious visits from the narcs. Charging documents filed earlier this month in Thurston County Superior Court say TNT detectives "obtained marijuana authorizations in their undercover names," and used the green cards to purchase small amounts of marijuana at the Resource Center "on a number of occasions" between August 25 and November 7.
The November 15 search of the premises reportedly turned up "scores of so-called 'edibles,'" 4.7 pounds of pot, six plants, and "a great deal of marijuana paraphernalia. The court documents also state that the Resource Center served more than 100 customers on "untold number of occasions."
Now the owners -- 40-year-old John Muise, and his 33-year-old partner Terrell Mizell -- face a combined 19 criminal charges, including eight counts of unlawful delivery of marijuana within 1,000 feet of a school bus stop route, nine counts of unlawful use of a building for drug purposes, one count of unlawful possession of marijuana within 1,000 feet of a school bus stop, and one count of unlawful manufacture of marijuana.
Muise's attorney Kent Underwood alleges that TNT detectives are guilty of entrapment and fraud for using assumed identities to obtain their pot prescriptions. "I believe this is egregious police conduct and should be sanctioned," he says. "They're impersonating a patient, apparently lying to a doctor or to a medical professional, in order to effectuate an arrest of somebody who is helping patients."
Other western Washington dispensaries busted in November were accused of failing to "comply with letter and the spirit of existing state law," and some face federal criminal charges. But the Resource Center has (thus far) avoided federal indictment. Philip Dawdy, director of The Washington Alternative Medicine Alliance, says the Resource Center was reputedly on the level: they only sold pot to customers with legitimate medical authorizations, which in this case happened to be the cops.
"As far as I know these guys were squeaky clean," Dawdy says. "This is crazy stuff. This is clearly a politically motivated prosecution, there's no question about it."
Washington voters and state lawmakers have both endorsed medical marijuana. Thurston County Prosecutors, on the other hand, argue in Muise and Mizell's charging documents that all pot shops became illegal last year when Governor Christine Gregoire vetoed the section of the legislature's marijuana policy overhaul that would have explicitly legalized dispensaries.
But with the businesses still operating in Seattle, Tacoma, and elsewhere in Olympia, Underwood begs to differ. Muise is scheduled to be arraigned January 17, and the attorney says his client intends to plead not guilty. Olympia Patient Resource Center Charges