Feds Raid Seattle Area Marijuana Clinics Despite State Law

By:  Jack Kenny
Feds Raid Seattle Area Marijuana Clinics Despite State Law

Federal agents with guns drawn raided four Seattle-area marijuana clinics, despite marijuana being legal for recreational and medicinal use in the state.

Seven government vehicles arrived outside the Bayside Collective in Olympia, Washington, where federal agents with guns drawn seized business records and about $2,500 worth of marijuana in a raid Wednesday morning, according to a report on King TV, Channel 5, the NBC affiliate in Seattle. King 5.com, citing an unnamed source in the U.S. attorney's office, said Bayside was one of four dispensaries raided in the Seattle area in the culmination of two-year investigation, with the evidence to go before a grand jury in September. The action was taken pursuant to federal law banning the sales or dispensing of marijuana, despite its legalization for recreational as well as medicinal use by referenda measures adopted by voters in Washington and Colorado last November.

"It's humiliating," said Casey Lee, who works at the Bayside clinic. "They don't get to see the cancer patients" who were to receive the confiscated marijuana.

Medical marijuana patient Leif O'Leary arrived at Seattle Cross to find the dispensary closed by order of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration. "You can't tell me there [aren't] bigger fish to fry, especially now that recreational marijuana is legal," he said. Washington now allows private possession of up to one ounce of marijuana. "It is just to me inconceivable that this is still happening," he added.

The federal raids appear to contradict a policy statement issued by the Department of Justice during President Obama's first year in office. In an October 2009 memorandum to federal prosecutors in the 14 states that then allowed medical use of marijuana, the department said prosecuting patients or distributors who are in "clear and unambiguous compliance" with state laws would not be an "efficient and rational use" of the department's resources. In a statement accompanying the memo, Attorney General Eric Holder seemed to be in agreement with O'Leary's contention that federal law enforcement officials had "bigger fish to fry."

"It will not be a priority to use federal resources to prosecute patients with serious illnesses or their caregivers who are complying with state laws on medical marijuana," Holder said, "but we will not tolerate drug traffickers who hide behind claims of compliance with state law to mask activities that are clearly illegal."

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