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.

BTown
More News...
The Sum of Nothing
Port race ponders a wasted waterfront

It is axiomatic, there’s very little agreement in politics. Yet the current Port of Bellingham Commission and the candidates who seek the position in the November election alike all agree: They’re not happy with the pace of development of Bellingham’s central waterfront. Their answers…

more »
Border Imperialism
Day of Peace observes those displaced by war

“Peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice.”
― —Martin Luther King Jr.

As almost 400,000 refugees flee ethnic cleansing in Myanmar, world leaders at the United Nation’s General Assembly this week acknowledged that they have not only failed on…

more »
I Stand With Planned Parenthood
The relentless war against family planning

Congress returns to Washington, D.C., after a brief August recess, with an unusually heavy workload. Lawmakers will need to secure emergency aid for hurricane victims, fund children’s health care for nearly nine million children in low- and moderate-income households, and consider…

more »
Events
Today
Fall Craft & Antique Show

10:00am|Northwest Washington Fairgrounds

3MB

7:00pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

The Women of Lockerbie

7:00pm|Lynden Christian High School

Young Frankenstein

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

Wild Things

9:30am|Stimpson Family Nature Reserve

Book and Bake Sale

10:00am|Lynden Library

Grand Opening and Open House

11:00am|Social Fabric

Books and Bites

1:00pm|Blaine Library

Clean Eating

2:00pm|Cordata Community Food Co-op

Coffee Tasting

3:00pm|Camber Cafe

Food Not Bombs

4:00pm|downtown Bellingham

12 Minutes Max Auditions

5:00pm|Firehouse Performing Arts Center

Art Night

5:00pm|SpringHill Suites by Marriott

Amber Sky CD Release Party

6:00pm|Presence Studio

Falliday Vintage Market

6:00pm|Port Transit Event Center

Gore & Lore Tours

6:00pm|Historic Fairhaven, downtown Bellingham

Family Story Night

6:00pm|Fairhaven Library

Wild & Scenic Film Festival

6:30pm|Lincoln Theatre

Upstream

7:00pm|Village Books

Poetry Party

7:00pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Halloween Movie Night

7:00pm|BHS Performing Arts Center

USA Dance

7:00pm|Majestic

Thriller Dance Class

7:00pm|Moles Farewell Tributes

Sanford-Hill Piano Series

7:30pm|Performing Arts Center

Friday Night Flicks

7:30pm|Van Zandt Community Hall

Hellingham

8:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Holding the Light

8:00pm|Honey Moon

CWWarrenMiller
Tomorrow
Fall Craft & Antique Show

10:00am|Northwest Washington Fairgrounds

3MB

7:00pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

The Women of Lockerbie

7:00pm|Lynden Christian High School

Young Frankenstein

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

Book and Bake Sale

10:00am|Lynden Library

Gore & Lore Tours

6:00pm|Historic Fairhaven, downtown Bellingham

Falliday Vintage Market

6:00pm|Port Transit Event Center

Hellingham

8:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Lynden Breakfast

8:00am|VFW Hall

Harvest Happens

8:00am|Bellewood Acres

Ferndale Breakfast

8:00am|Ferndale Senior Center

Twin Sisters Farmers Market

9:00am|North Fork Library, Nugents Corner

Anacortes Farmers Market

9:00am|Depot Arts Center

Pumpkins 4 Pajamas

9:00am|Lakeway Fred Meyer

NSEA Work Party

9:00am|Terrell Creek

Landscape stewards work party

9:00am|Chuckanut Center

Scarecrow Stuffing Contest

9:00am|Garden Spot Nursery

Pumpkin Patch on Rails

9:00am|Wickersham Station

Port race ponders a wasted waterfront

9:30am

Blaine Oktoberfest

10:00am|Blaine

Everyday Superheroes 5K

10:00am|Squalicum Creek Park

Bellingham Farmers Market

10:00am|Depot Market Square

Fall Family Fun

10:00am|Glen Echo Garden

98221 Studio Tour

10:00am|Fidalgo Island

Blaine Gardeners Market

10:00am|H Street Plaza

Bellingham Comicon

10:00am|Ferndale Event Center

Community Cider Pressing

10:00am|Chuckanut Center

Enlightened Caterpillar

10:30am|Village Books

Correspondence Club

10:30am|Mindport Exhibits

Holiday Gifts from the Kitchen

11:00am|Community Food Co-op

Crown Jewel Wilderness

11:00am|Western Washington University Bookstore

Mushrooms gone wild

12:00pm

Conquering Writer's BLock

1:00pm|Blaine Library

Fidalgo Youth Symphony

1:00pm|McIntyre Hall

Winter Birds of Whatcom County

2:00pm|Ferndale Library

Undersea Bubble Fantasia

2:30pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Brew on the Slough

5:00pm|Maple Hall

Community Library Celebration

5:00pm|North Fork Library

Bellingham Hoptoberfest

6:00pm|Bellingham Sportsplex

Seeds of Change

6:30pm|Edison Granary

The Great Unconformity

7:00pm|Village Books

The Tannahill Weavers

7:30pm|Littlefield Celtic Center

Skagit Symphony's Gala Concert

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

Whose Live Anyway?

7:30pm|Performing Arts Center Concert Hall

Original Comedy Night

8:00pm|Lincoln Theatre

CWWarrenMiller Bellingham Farmer’s Market
Sunday
Book and Bake Sale

10:00am|Lynden Library

Harvest Happens

8:00am|Bellewood Acres

98221 Studio Tour

10:00am|Fidalgo Island

Rabbit Ride

8:00am|Fairhaven Bicycle

Rabbit Ride

8:00am|Fairhaven Bicycle

Church of Brunch

10:30am|Gretchen's Kitchen

Bellingham Repertory Dance Open Rehearsal

11:30am|Firehouse Performing Arts Center

Wild Mushroom Show

12:00pm|Bloedel Donovan Community Building

Fresh-Milled Whole Grain Baking

1:00pm|Bread Lab

Audubon at the Museum

1:30pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

The Answer Tour

6:00pm|Mount Baker Theatre

see our complete calendar »

Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 Mt. Baker Theatre Undersea Bubble CWWarrenMiller Trove Bellingham Farmer’s Market Village Books