"}
News

Pot Shots

Police raid and close the city’s medical marijuana dispensaries

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Police action preempted an attempt at legal remedy by these firms. The dispensaries had planned to file an injunction, seeking relief from the threats defined by police in their March 9 letters. The injunction was set to be filed in Whatcom County courts on March 16, one day before the police raids.
 
“We thought that police would be able to contain themselves and uphold state law while we sought relief,” Seattle attorney Hilary Bricken said. Her law firm,  HarrisMoure, represents about 30 cannabis co-ops, growers, and vendors around the state, including two in Bellingham.

“It is really disappointing that the City Attorney, the police and city prosecutors could not allow the courts to do their job, and figure these issues out in a civil arena. It was unprofessional, it was unconstitutional, and it is a disservice to the people of Bellingham, and in particular to the patients,” Bricken said. “They beat us to the punch.”

Search warrants were served on the Northern Cross in downtown Bellingham, as well as KGB and The Joint dispensaries in Fairhaven. Police say they also closed two two locations in Skagit County believed to be the grow source of some of the marijuana sold at the cooperatives. Five people were arrested and booked into Whatcom County Jail facing charges of possession of marijuana with intent to deliver.

Police clim the dispensaries stocked too much marijuana. Washington state law allows a medical marijuana dispensary to have 4-1/2 lbs of cannabis inventory to serve a limit of 10 members. According to police, the three local dispensaries had a combined total of 33 lbs of inventory, serving 3,000 members.

Police recovered more than 15 pounds of marijuana from Northern Cross, 11 pounds from KGB and 7 pounds of marijuana from The Joint. In addition, a substantial amount of cash and marijuana food products were seized. At the Skagit locations, police seized more than 300 marijuana plants along with a few weapons, including handguns and a shotgun.

“The search warrants were the result of a three month investigation into the illegal distribution and manufacture of marijuana at marijuana cooperatives in Bellingham,” Bellingham Police noted in a press release. “After numerous citizen complaints regarding these organizations, police investigated and determined that these were no more than a front for illegal drug activity.  The City of Bellingham revoked the businesses registrations of the cooperatives in December due to the illegal activity.”

Police say they obtained evidence that the collectives exceeded the 10 members per dispensary allowed by law.

“Officers were told by employees of Northern Cross that they have 3000 members while the other two locations are also believed to have members well over the amount allowed by law,” Ramsay noted.

“These arrests are not about medical marijuana, these arrest are about closing down illegal criminal drug enterprises,” he said.

Bricken criticized the tactics of police and city prosecutors.

Not only did the City of Bellingham issue their cease-and-desist letters on a Friday at 4pm, she said, preventing timely legal response, but they also timed their raid just in advance of the one day of the month the civil court is closed, preventing her firm from filing a restraining order.

Bricken said her firm had planned legal action to prevent city officials and police from enforcing a constructive ban against medical cannabis in Bellingham.

“There is no collective garden law on the books, nor is there a moratorium against businesses of this kind,” Bricken said. “Basically, they’re shooting from the hip, claiming that our clients are violating state law when in fact they are not.

“The City Attorney and others are committed to one interpretation of state law that is extremely restrictive and unconstitutional,” she said. “In my opinion, that is why they raided.”

Criticizing that restrictive reading, Bricken said, “It is illogical and incorrect to assume that a law would both allow you access to something yet deny it at the same time. The collective garden model can work with a rotating patient basis system, and we believe the statute was created to promote safe access.

“We don’t want patients to have to turn to the black market for access when the statute clearly allows safe access,” she said.

The Bellingham Hearing Examiner is scheduled in April to consider city policy on the issuance of business licenses for collective gardens and medical marijuana dispensaries.

The Bellingham Police Department’s Special Investigations Unit led last week’s action and was assisted by various other units of the Bellingham Police Department, the Skagit County Inter-Local Drug Enforcement Unit, Skagit County Sheriff’s Office and Northwest Regional Drug Task Force.

SVCR Don McLean
More News...
R.I.P.*
*Really, Is it Post-mortal?

The Cherry Point coal port looks dead, but maybe it’s too early to call the undertaker.

The giant port builder and operator SSA Marine has told Whatcom County officials that the company is withdrawing its permit applications for what was supposed to be the largest coal export terminal…

more »
Immigration 
Conflagration
Washington representatives join challenge of refugee order

With President Trump’s attorney general nominee, Jeff Sessions, still awaiting Senate confirmation, Sally Yates, a holdover from President Obama’s administration, has been running the Justice Department. She was terminated this week because she believed she could not carry out an order…

more »
Sanctuary
Bellingham pushes back against new federal directions

A tide of pink surged through downtown Bellingham over the weekend, a protest march so large police marveled at its size. Police made adjustments to a scheduled parade route in real time, as the leaders in the march turned a corner and flowed into the crowds in the middle of the march, and…

more »
Events
Today
Fairhaven Food Fest

11:00am|Historic Fairhaven

Ancestry & Genealogy

1:00pm|Ferndale Library

Make Monday Matter

4:00pm|Everson Library

Library Tour

6:00pm|Bellingham Public Library

Cuban Salsa

6:00pm|Bell Tower Studios

Yoga for Outdoor Fitness

6:00pm|REI

Open Mic

7:00pm|Village Books

Swing Dance

8:00pm|Eagles Hall

Poetrynight

8:00pm|Bellingham Public Library

Poetrynight

8:00pm|Bellingham Public Library

Guffawingham

9:30pm|Green Frog

MBT Pirates Trove
Tomorrow
Fairhaven Food Fest

11:00am|Historic Fairhaven

Chuckanut Radio Hour

6:30pm|Leopold Crystal Ballroom

Winter Bistro

6:30pm|Cordata Community Food Co-op

Winter Classics

6:30pm|Gretchen's Kitchen

Bellingham Reads

6:30pm|Bellingham Public Library

Loons of the Salish Sea

7:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

MVHS Jazz

7:00pm|Lincoln Theatre

Geology Underfoot

7:00pm|Ferndale Library

Books on Tap

7:00pm|Maggie's Pub

Gather Round

7:00pm|Honey Moon Mead & Cider

Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 Bellingham Farmer’s Market
Wednesday
Fairhaven Food Fest

11:00am|Historic Fairhaven

Community Coffee and Tea

9:00am|East Whatcom Regional Resource Center

Community Coffee and Tea

9:00am|East Whatcom Regional Resource Center

Tea and Books

2:00pm|Lynden Library

Reader's Theatre for Teens

3:00pm|Ferndale Library

Books and Tea

3:00pm|Everson Library

Poetry and Music

6:00pm|South Whatcom Library

Group Run

6:00pm|Skagit Running Company

Milo Petersen Quartet

7:00pm|Whatcom Jazz Music Art Center

Garden Club Meeting

7:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Panty Hoes

9:00pm|Rumors Cabaret

Panty Hoes

9:00pm|Rumors Cabaret

see our complete calendar »

MBT LOL Village Books Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 Northwood Steak and Crab Trove Bellingham Technical College Bellingham Farmer’s Market