DEA raids Washington cannabis clinics
July 27, 2013
Just in time to start applying for retail cannabis licenses under I-502 in Washington state, federal agents raided several medical dispensaries Wednesday in a possible preview of things to come.
Even though medical cannabis has been legal in Washington since 1998 said reports indicate that these raids are the cumulation of a 2 year long investigation resulting in agents seizing $2500 worth of medical cannabis. Roughly 14 ounces depending on the exact sales price.
This in a state that approved recreational cannabis under Initiative 502 during 2012 and is conservatively projecting a legal retail production figure in the 90 ton range for 2014. That’s 2,880,000 retail ounces for anyone keeping score.
When the feds indicated they, “… had bigger fish to fry,” apparently goldfish was the starting point being discussed. Holding up a minnow and posing for pictures isn’t exactly what we had in mind. Here in the pacific northwest we would call that bait. Perhaps the fishing is not as good where the DEA lives.
Details about forthcoming charges or reasons for the raids so far have been withheld. Though I doubt viewer ratings is among them. If the DEA wanted to impress Washington voters it would be securing the border against B.C. smugglers that are undermining our retail market eh?
Unfortunately, these raids do raise the specter of what might happen once retail cannabis production, distribution and retail companies begin to operate later this year.
I suppose the first corporation to open more than one franchise outlet will be the next big raid. The headlines are not hard to imagine as they shut down, “… an illegal state wide distribution ring,” while exposing separately taxed processor and transportation networks to boot. Just pitching one case after another underhand to federal attorneys.
It’s easy to imagine that mass raids without state law enforcement support would be impractical or a drain on federal prosecutors state wide. However photocopying IRS and inventory records a year from now from a legal market would cost more ink than overtime in my opinion. 24/7 inside/outside video coverage in 45 day blocks of time is a convenient regulatory touch added to any case, free of charge. The lab testing THC content for labeling regs authenticates recorded video content rather well. Also free of charge to prosecutors since the producer pays for that.
The continued lack of action from our state representatives certainly isn’t helping things along either. It will be interesting to see how that plays out during the next election season. If the personal beliefs of our politicians do not allow them to represent their voters then we really do need to elect people that may disagree but will still do the job they applied for in the first place.
As an abstract I don’t see these raids doing much good even if these clinics were operating in violation of state regs somehow. Black-market producers are only going to be further encouraged to remain so. A potentially discouraged legal market might be unable to meet retail demand. That can only result in increased black-market production as the financial rewards grow with each grow.
If the federal government insists on shutting down our retail market in the coming months then the only way to decrease illegal black-market activity left to Washington state voters is to just let people grow their own and call it good. Let the feds knock door to door after that.
The last in a series of public hearings held by the Washington State Liquor Control Board (LCB) about regulations regarding I-502 are scheduled for August 6th, 7th and 8th. While we have to wait and see what affect these raids might have on license applications it is easy to assume that questions regarding them will be brought up.
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