Madison marijuana dispensary hit in wave of federal raids

A wave of optimism for the industry that accompanied the opening of a collection of new marijuana dispensaries on Capitol Hill in the past year has been replaced by a wave of concern and uncertainty after a series of busts around the greater Puget Sound on Tuesday.

Overall, authorities say that more than a dozen dispensaries around Seattle were hit in the federal raids with twelve or more arrests. Included in the net was Seattle Cross, an offshoot of the Tacoma Cross effort that had set up operations near 23rd and Madison on the backside of Capitol Hill.

The Stranger offered this account of what happened there on Tuesday:

He told me that he heard the DEA agents announce they had a warrant, and then saw them carrying out large desktop computers and big plastic garbage bags full of marijuana. Then, he said, “they drove off in a quasi-caravan, and that was it.” (Another observer told me he read the warrant, and that it was very broadly written. This observer also said the DEA agents pulled carefully cultivated marijuana plants, intentionally separated by strain, out of their pots and threw them haphazardly into the garbage bags.)

In joint statements released by the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Department of Justice, federal authorities didn’t name the dispensaries or the suspects but enumerated the transgressions behind the busts:

As set forth in the search warrant affidavits unsealed by the U.S. District Court today, these businesses attracted the attention of federal law enforcement for a number of reasons: their failure to abide by state medical marijuana guidelines; indications that they were distributing large amounts of drugs; and evidence they were laundering large amounts of money. Some of these marijuana stores were the subject of complaints from their surrounding communities as well as medical marijuana supporters, concerned about businesses operating outside the letter and spirit of state law. One operator was arrested this morning for violating the court ordered terms of his federal supervised release for a prior federal conviction. 

This spring, James Lucas, an owner of Tacoma Cross, told CHS he was  bringing his co-op to Seattle to provide a service. “We try to keep the medicine high quality and affordable,” Lucas said. “I’m hearing prices of $400 an ounce. We’re going to come up there and try to help people out.”

Lucas said his dispensary system utilizes an identification card that also works like a membership rewards program. At the time, he said Tacoma Cross currently had about 3,500 members.

Eight people connected to Tacoma Cross were charged with felonies in 2010 after seven of their homes were raided. In the end, five people pleaded guilty to lesser misdemeanor charges and were let off without suspended or deferred jail sentences.

The Seattle Times reports that the federal legal paperwork details one alleged major transaction involving Seattle Cross ownership:

A search-warrant affidavit for those locations — and for homes where marijuana was being grown — accused both dispensaries of drug dealing and money laundering.

In federal court documents accompanying the search warrants, officers described a confidential informant buying 5 pounds of marijuana for $11,000 from the Seattle Cannabis Co-op.

The co-owner of Seattle Cross, according to an affidavit, posted a photo on his Facebook page showing three duffel bags of cash and a caption, “This gonna take all night to count … lol.”

Deposits in the Seattle Cross bank account totaled $850,979 in a year.

The legal environment around the city’s medical marijuana providers, already murky following the governor’s veto of a bill regulating dispensaries this spring, is now further clouded. Most providers continued to operate even as federal efforts to stamp out the industry increased in other states.

Toke of the Town reports that a law enforcement official said raids will be “culminating” on Wednesday.

It isn’t clear what will come next for other dispensaries operating on Capitol Hill. Our messages to Apothecary Seattle, a one-time CHS advertiser, and Pike/Pine’s BOTH Collective have not yet been responded to. Apothecary released a series of news posts to its Facebook page about the raids. The 10th Ave BOTH posted a message to its Twitter feed:

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19 thoughts on “Madison marijuana dispensary hit in wave of federal raids

  1. …because of yesterday’s raid on so many locations?

    I’d hate to think of people being denied something they need because very few people are breaking the rules giving a bad image and name to an entire industry

  2. These raids were not done with SPD and Pete Holmes claims to not even know they were going to happen.

    This is a divisive tactic and a scare tactic. Cooperative garden owners in seattle need to stick together. Any cooperative in town could be accused by uncle sam as a money launderer and illegal “drug trafficker” under the federal interpretation of the CSA.

    Every cooperative in town has the same lawyers too, raids are really good for Hiatt and Pelley’s bottom lines. In fact, if anyone is talking to DEA about who’s being a “bad player”, its likely the lawyers that make bank every time there is a news headline that says “raid” somewhere in the title. Look to see medical marijuana lawyers around town flossing cash this weekend, lot of dumb money from dumb business owners flooding their useless pockets this weekend.

  3. Justin quoted Cass Stewart of Apothecary as saying, “We have been advised by our attorney that it looks like a targeted raid going after some specific places that were not following the guidelines and the laws that had been set forth by Washington state.” I wonder if Cass thinks the targets of DEA raids will be prosecuted for violation of guidelines and state law.

    Everyone who grows, processes, transfers, or consumes cannabis is engaging in federal civil disobedience. Arguing over who’s breaking the law the right way and who’s breaking the law the wrong way is ridiculous. I suspect that the feds will go after whomever they can get warrants for, regardless of the degree to which those people are complying with local regulations.

  4. Yes, that’s right. Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, hell– WhyTF not Michele Bachmann?– they’ll all be WAY more sympathetic to medical marijuana than the present administration. You should definitely vote for one of them.

  5. I think that the raid of these “dispensaries” for obviously illegal activity (over $800,000 deposited into an account in one year…yikes!…that speaks for itself) is very justified, and that it is likely that the targeted businesses are only the tip of the iceberg of illegal activity at other (not all) dispensaries. The feds only raided the places where they had firm evidence of illegal activities.

    Seattle US Attorney Jenny Durkan, according to today’s Seattle Times, has said that she believes many medical marijuana patients are fakers. She is a very responsible, professional woman, and I don’t think she would say this if there wasn’t some validity to her claim.

  6. Yea because mccain, obama, and palin were the only tickets on the card to punch. Christ everyone. And now you’re pointing me at fucking romney and bachmann? Look at third party/independent candidates after pulling your head out of the sand and don’t come back with some bs about how they will “never win” – that’s only because you guys keep pointing towards said candidates like they are the only choices.

  7. And if you need some handholding, here’s a tiny list. Gary Johnson, Ron Paul (yea yea). They’ve both been in the news enough for some of you boobtubers to have caught by now.

  8. I think the faking is going on mainly at the level of the dispensaries. Most reputable doctors, understandably, are unwilling to risk their reputations (and their licenses) by providing authorizations without solid documentation of a real qualifying condition. Fakers know this, so instead they go to a dispensary, for a “consultation” at a “clinic” staffed by moonlighting doctors (who have never seen the “patient”), and who charge a significant fee to sign the authorization form, with little or no documentation. For a prime example, see the article in the Seattle Times last summer, by a reporter who got an authorization at a Hempfest “clinic” with basically no evaluation, no documentation, no questions asked.

    The marijuana dispensaries have a huge financial incentive to provide “quick and easy” authorizations. Not only do they get a cut in the doctor’s fee, but then the customer is very likely to buy weed from that store over the long run.

    No, I wouldn’t go to Ms. Durkan for medical advice. But I think she knows that there are serious abuses taking place with the medical marijuana law. To deny this is to bury your head in the sand.

  9. “For a prime example, see the article in the Seattle Times last summer, by a reporter who got an authorization at a Hempfest “clinic” with basically no evaluation, no documentation, no questions asked.”

    I read it, and I think you and I discussed it here on CHS. Jonathon Martin reported that he discussed his medical condition with the doctor who evaluated him.

    “[dispensaries] get a cut in the doctor’s fee”

    Do you have any evidence to back that assertion?

    “But I think [Jenny Durkan] knows that there are serious abuses taking place with the medical marijuana law.”

    I challenge you to find even one instance of a judge or jury finding anyone in Washington State to have used or been in possession of a fraudulent medical cannabis recommendation. I’ve never heard of a prosecution for such.

    There are serious abuses taking place with United States drug policy, and they are perpetrated by agents of our federal government. To deny this is to bury your head in the sand.

  10. Given Obama’s dismally Bush-like presidential track record — including his “surge” in medical marijuana busts — the dancing out in the streets after the election really does seem silly, in retrospect.

    “Yay! We’re gonna basically have four more years of the Bush administration! Viva la Revolucion!”

  11. Just because there have been no prosecutions of fraudulent authorizations does not mean this isn’t occurring. Both the feds and local officials have a policy of not going after individual users, but to focus their efforts on dispensaries that are acting illegally, such as in the recent raids.

    Also, a consultation between a doctor and patient is “privileged” information, and…correct me if I’m wrong…cannot be used as evidence in a court of law. So, it would be almost impossible to prove that fraud is occurring. The dispensaries, the doctors who staff them, and criminal justice people know this…so fraud is unlikely to be prosecuted…unfortunately.

  12. This is for all you that thing there’s no medical use or what the dea has done was right. Ok let’s start with those pills you take every day cuz your hurting or dying for something that’s not your fault. Those pills you take are made from man. They also are easier for your kids to get to. They ate more addicting then marijuana. Now how is that better then marijuana. What about all those liver failures that ar caused by those pills that are ment to help you? But pills are so easy to get you can walk in a doctors office say that you butt hurts and you need some strong pain killers and yo get then just like that. Now let’s look at all these cigarette smokers that die cuz of cancer cuz there so addicting that is so hard to quit. But that’s legal. What about alcohol. That kills thousands, but its being sold in stores all over and kids are still able to get it. So to label marijuana bad or unhealthy, is nothing but a dumb retard. Seriously there’s so many people that want it legal and few that don’t. And when it comes to marijuana kills or just be cause its not written on paper don’t mean it doesn’t kill people, well I have news for you. Those few people that don’t like it would do anything to make sure its on paper to prove there point. Oh yeah. Synthedic marijuanahas killed more then marijuana. Hmmm again marijuana is god made (or how ever you Belice) and synthedic marijuana is man made. Oh one more thing. For the cop that said he saw us med patients that don’t look like they need it look at our doctors (regular doctors) chart. And a lot of times we don’t show signs. So shove it up your butt.

  13. you people that run a dirty business, and you know who you are, deserve to be shut down. i say, if you get shut down, you stay shut down!! we will never win this war, as long as there are idiots like YOU