Four local medical marijuana dispensaries that Drug Enforcement Administration agents raided on Wednesday were all targets of previous federal busts. They were among about 20 medical marijuana storefronts raided by the Drug Enforcement Administration in November 2011.
Raids were reported at Seattle Cross, Tacoma Cross, and Bayside Collective in Olympia, according to Seattle attorney Douglas Hiatt.
“A client of mine who was talking to a D.E.A agent was told that there were going to be 18 places raided (Wednesday) up and down the corridor,” said Hiatt.
A search warrant affidavit filed in support of the earlier searches said there was evidence that the medical dispensaries were fronts for commercial drug dealing. No federal criminal charges immediately resulted from the 2011 searches of those four shops.
Marijuana possession remains illegal under federal law, even though sale of medicinal marijuana has been legal in Washington since 1998. Washington voters legalized use of recreational marijuana last November.
Earlier this year, Gov. Jay Inslee and state Attorney General Bob Ferguson traveled to Washington, D.C. asking that the U.S. Justice Department clarify how it would respond to the state’s new marijuana law.
“I think there’s kind of been a lull in enforcement while they’re trying to make up their minds about where they’re going, policy-wise and I think from (Wednesday), it looks like that lull is ending,” said Hiatt, adding he has no idea the reason for the timing of the raids.
Bayside employee Addy Norton said agents seized personal cell phones of dispensary workers and pot, but left computers and about $1,000 in cash. Agents told her the raid was part of a two-year investigation and she said she was ordered to appear before a federal grand jury in Seattle in September.
The raid came just days after Bayside was burglarized on Sunday night.
Earlier this month, the Washington State Liquor Control Board approved proposed rules for the state’s marijuana industry, which if enacted, will help govern production, processing, and retail sales of recreational marijuana.
The rules are scheduled to take effect Sept. 16 and marijuana sales should begin in early 2014, unless the Justice Department stops them.
Four public meetings on the proposed rules will be held across the state Aug. 6-8.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.