Pot Raids, Plus More On Alleged South End Cigarettes and Food Stamps Scam

By Jonah Spangenthal-Lee November 15, 2011

Today in Fuzz: Pot raids and alleged food stamp scams.

1) Federal authorities swept through at least 15 medical marijuana dispensaries in raids between Seattle and Lacey Tuesday.

The Cannabis Defense Coalition's website claims medical marijuana patients were targeted in the raid—"stop arresting medical marijuana patients," a post on the site says. A spokesman for the Thurston County Sheriff's Office told The Olympian that police are not targeting legitimate medical marijuana patients, but that people selling pot illegally from dispensaries could face charges.

Federal authorities weren't immediately available for comment on the raids, but may be releasing more information later.

Update: The US Attorney's office released a statement about the raids this evening, saying DEA and local law enforcement served warrants today as part of investigations into "illegal drug distribution" at businesses "that purport to operate as 'medical' marijuana establishments."

The US Attorney's office claims the businesses failed to follow state medical marijuana guidelines, distributed large amounts of drugs, and laundered money. The statement says the raids were the result of community complaints, "as well as medical marijuana supporters, concerned about businesses operating outside the letter and spirit of state law. "

These raids certainly could be confirmation of marijuana activists' fears about the vagueness of Washington's medical marijuana laws, but the US Attorney's statement seems to hint that authorities targeted these businesses because they were selling to people who did not have prescriptions for medical marijuana.

"As we have previously stated, we will not prosecute truly ill people or their doctors," the statement says. "[S]tate laws of compassion were never intended to protect brash criminal conduct that masquerades as medical treatment. Sales to people who are not ill, particularly our youth, sales or grows in school zones, and the use of guns in connection with an enterprise all present a danger to our community.”

Whether the US Attorney's claims about these businesses are legit or not remains to be seen.

2) Police documents released Tuesday reveal more details about an investigation into an alleged scheme to sell food stamps and stolen cigarettes at a south Seattle corner store.

According to Seattle Police Department search warrant documents, police began investigating Solom Grocery on Rainier Ave. S. and S. Pearl St. in September after a shoplifter at a different South End grocery store, in a bid to avoid prosecution, tipped police that the business was buying stolen cigarettes.

The man told police he had sold stolen cigarettes to a woman at Solom Grocery known as "Mom" at least "30 times in the last four years," police documents say.

Police sent the shoplifter in to the minimart undercover, and department records indicate the proprietor purchased cartons of purportedly stolen cigarettes worth hundreds of dollars and a case of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, and traded cash for food stamp cards.

Police say the woman ultimately agreed to purchase 80 cartons of cigarettes from the shoplifter, and said she could buy even more cigarettes if she could "collect more money from additional investors."

Police moved in and arrested the woman last week. Prosecutors have not yet filed charges in the case.
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