Here we go again. On Tuesday, Washington medical marijuana dispensaries became the latest victims of the Obama administration’s escalating war on cannabis and the will of citizens. Agents of the federal government raided several state-sanctioned dispensaries with no regard for their actual compliance with local law. As usual, the feds claimed that this was all about drug dealers running front operations as an excuse for shutting out patients in need of medicine and ruining a few livelihoods in the process. Just another day at the office.
Seattle US Attorney Jenny Duncan released a statement arguing that it was “complaints from their surrounding communities as well as medical marijuana supporters” that prompted the crackdown and that state laws “were never meant to protect brash criminal conduct that masquerades as medical treatment.” Actual, non-imaginary marijuana supporters in Washington, were rather surprised that “the feds put boots on the ground and started kicking down doors,” as attorney Aaron Pelley puts it.
According to the Cannabis Defense Coalition, some 15 Washington dispensaries spreading across Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia, Puyallup, Lacey and Rochester were raided. Additional raids and arrests were also conducted elsewhere in state. The attack on Seattle dispensaries is particularly troubling as that city has passed a number of ordinances supportive of medical marijuana. In july, the mayor even even signed a law allowing marijuana distribution centers in Seattle and establishing regulatory measures.
Examination of the search warrants used by the DEA shows charges of money laundering, weapons and large-scale distribution. Of course the real issue is that Washington’s medical marijuana law is a hard to follow mess that doesn’t explicitly allow dispensaries while still sanctioning “collective gardens.” Earlier this year, claiming to be worried about federal threats, Governor Christine Gregoire vetoed a bill that would have created a comprehensive regulatory framework for Washington medical marijuana.
US attorney Duncan followed the federal script and declared again that the government “will not prosecute truly ill people or their doctors who determine that marijuana is an appropriate medical treatment.” But it is doubtful anyone still believes this spiel, given how actions against dispensaries hurt access for patients. The war on marijuana is spreading and claiming more victims, it is foolish for marijuana advocates in any state to think that their particular practices and regulations make them safe. Right now the only viable defense is a concentrated legal effort to challenge the government and the continuation of a rapid expansion policy. In the end, the more states join our side, the better the odds.
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