The repercussions of Washington Governor Christine Gregoire’s failure of leadership — when she vetoed most of a bill that would have legalized medical marijuana dispensaries in the state — continue to reverberate. Police in Kent, Washington served search warrants at all four dispensaries in town on Wednesday afternoon.
|Photo: Q13 FOX
|Chris Barten, Evergreen Holistic Center: “They police came in in a strong-arm tactic; they took everything”
”The police came in in a strong-arm tactic; they took everything,” said Chris Barten, who runs Evergreen Holistic Center, reports James Lynch at Q13 FOX
Besides Evergreen, Susie Q’s, Sunleaf and the Herbal Choice Center were also raided and shut down. None of the owners were arrested, but all were told to keep their businesses closed.
The move came after a 5-2 City Council vote Tuesday night mandating a six-month moratorium on dispensaries and related businesses like grow operations, reports Eric Wilkinson at King 5 News
Recent polls show widespread support for complete legalization of marijuana in Washington state, and support for its medical use is even stronger. The mayor’s move is not a popular one in Kent, according to Wilkinson.
“When it comes right down to it, these people need their marijuana,” said Kent resident Corey Forbis. “They’re either gonna get it from a drug dealer on the street or a place like this. What would you rather have in your city?”
Others see a sinister political motive behind the raids.
|Photo: Q13 FOX
|Jason: “Everybody knows Charles Lambert [owner of Kent’s just-raided Evergreen Holistic Center]is running for city council in Kent”
”Everybody knows Charles Lambert [owner of Kent’s just-raided Evergreen Holistic Center]is running for city council in Kent,” said Jason, who runs a website that directs patients to dispensaries. “He wants to make a change here. He knows in Washington state people want this. In Kent, people want this.”
A city news release said Wednesday’s raids were Kent’s latest step in a process that began with notifying medical marijuana dispensary owners that they must close or face the loss of their business licenses and potential criminal charges.
Cease and desist letters were mailed to each dispensary owner in early June, followed by a second round of notices delivered by Kent police three weeks later, according to city officials.
Last week, police claimed they confirmed “drug sales” were still occurring at each business, the city said. Search warrants were requested and issued by Kent Municipal Court, authorizing police to search the four businesses.
Barten and others said the dispensaries had stayed upon because they have business licenses issued by the city and believed they were operating legally.
“They sent us a letter saying we had to cease illegal activity,” Barten said. “We weren’t doing any illegal activity in the first place.”
The warrants directed officers to seize evidence including marijuana, computers, cell phones, security devices, and weapons.
Washington’s I-692 in 1998, approved by 54 percent of voters, legalized the use of medical marijuana in the state. But after Gov. Gregoire recently line-item vetoed most of a bill that would have legally protected dispensaries and their employees, patients were left worse off than they started.
“State law has put the city in a precarious position; we cannot just stand by while activity that is illegal under state and federal law occurs in the city,” said Kenty Mayor Suzette Cooke.
Each of the warrants was served without incident by a team of uniformed police officers and representatives from the city’s legal department.
The case will be referred to the Kent city attorney for prosecution.