|Photo: The Washington Apple|
|Way cooler than your average mayor: Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn is reviewing marijuana enforcement policies after the botched raid of a legal patient|
Battering Ram Raid Of Legal Seattle Patient By Machine Gun-Toting Officers Results In Review
Activist Group Invoices City For Cost Of Patient’s Door
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn will sit down Monday with top law enforcement officials to talk about how city police and King County deputies are enforcing marijuana laws.
McGinn, who supports legalizing marijuana, said a recent Seattle police raid in which only two legal medical marijuana plants were found shows the difficulties law enforcement officers face, report Emily Heffter and Sara Jean Green of The Seattle Times.
Seattle Anti-Crime Team officers brandishing machine guns burst through the door of Will Laudanski, a renter who was following state law and city policy on marijuana, according to a Seattle Police Department spokesman. The officers had a search warrant they had obtained after sniffing around Laudanski’s apartment and claiming to smell marijuana.
When officers realized the tenant had valid medical marijuana documentation, they left without arresting Laudanski. While the Seattle Times reported that the cops fixed the man’s door, they got it exactly wrong. The repair was in fact paid for by the Cannabis Defense Coalition (CDC), a Seattle-based activist group which advocates for medical marijuana patients in Washington state.
“The CDC paid for, and replaced, Will’s door,” spokesman Ben Livingston confirmed to Toke of the Town Monday morning. “End of story.”
The CDC had pledged to repair Mr. Laudanski’s front door after it was severely damaged by a police battering ram during the October 25 raid. Police left the door in disrepair and the disabled Gulf War veteran lacked the resources to replace it.
“Wasting our limited tax dollars on these worthless pot raids is bad public policy,” Livingston said. “Failing to repair Will’s door is just plain bad manners.”
The CDC announced on Monday that it will invoice the City of Seattle for the cost of fixing Laudanski’s front door. The group said it would hand deliver the invoice at 3 p.m. Monday at the executive forum called by the mayor to discuss the incident.
“This makes my blood boil,” commented CDC activist Phil Mocek on Facebook. “The police are apparently lying about cleaning up the mess they made — that we at CDC cleaned up because they didn’t do a damned thing about it.
“We’re not going to let this drop,” Mocek said. “They bust into this guy’s home with no indication that he was doing anything illegal other than possibly using marijuana, and in this city, busting adults for marijuana is, by law, our police department’s lowest law enforcement priority.”
“They went in with a half-dozen cops in SWAT gear with a battering ram,” Mocek said. “And found two plants. Legal ones.”
Mayor McGinn, meanwhile, is questioning whether there’s not a better way to guide police behavior on pot raids.
“We’re not giving — the law doesn’t give — clear policy guidance to the police or prosecutors necessarily, or even the public, and the recent raid highlighted that issue,” he said.
Joining the mayor for the meeting will be City Attorney Pete Holmes, who has followed through on his promise he made while running for office a year ago to stop prosecuting people for simple marijuana possession. Also planning to attend the meeting are Police Chief John Diaz, King County Sheriff Sue Rahr, King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg, and City Council member Nick Licata.
McGinn has already asked Assistant Police Chief Jim Pugel to “review” all marijuana investigations when officers are asking for a search warrant.
“We just want to give them greater security and determine whether there are other methods that we could use… but the raid reflects the fact that we don’t necessarily give police officers the clarity they need to do their job,” McGinn said.
In Washington state, patients who are authorized by their physicians to use cannabis for medical conditions can legally grow it. Washington allows medical marijuana patients to grow 15 plants and possess 24 ounces of dried marijuana. Patients can be authorized to have more under certain conditions.
Seattle Police Department spokesman Sean Whitcomb claimed the laws put officers in a tough position, because they don’t know who is legally authorized to grow marijuana.
“Is it our job to compromise the investigation to give the benefit of doubt to people?” Whitcomb whined. You know, when your potential pot raid targets could be chronically or terminally ill patients — as is required by Washington’s medical marijuana law — I’d say maybe that is your damn job, Officer Whitcomb.
But of course, just knocking on the damned door and asking is out of the question for these bush-league Rambos.
But without a state database of legal marijuana patients, it’s difficult to know if a grower is authorized, according to Ian Goodhew, deputy chief of staff to King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg. Goodhew said for-profit, large-scale marijuana growers “are often well-armed,” and officer safety is always a consideration.
A quick check was unable to turn up any instances of Seattle officers ever being shot or even fired upon in a marijuana grow raid.
In the Laudanski case, officers claimed they were following up on a citizen complaint. They went to his apartment and spotted ventilation equipment “common to marijuana grow operations.”
Anti-Crime Team Officer Tyrone Davis and Sgt. Garth Green saw that a window was boarded up and rigged with a fan. They climbed the stairs to a second-floor landing and smelled “an odor consistent with the smell of marijuana plants,” according to the search warrant.
Davis and Green got a search warrant and returned on Oct. 25 about 9:45 p.m. According to their incident report, they knocked on Laudanski’s door and then broke the door and entered after nobody answered.
Laudanski, 50 said he was tying his robe and trying to answer the door when officers barged in and forced him face down to the floor.
They found two scrawny potted cannabis plants in the bedroom, and two glass jars containing dried marijuana.
Laudanski had valid paperwork showing the marijuana was for medical purposes.
“In hindsight, it looks like more force” was used than necessary, Goodhew admitted, “but you have to remember that police didn’t know what they would find.”
Whitcomb claimed the officers had “no reason” to consider Initiative 75, the 2003 measure Seattle voters approved that made arresting and jailing adults for possessing personal amounts of marijuana the departments lowest law-enforcement priority.
The Laudanski search wasn’t considered a “possession” case, Whitcomb claimed.
While that’s technically true, Mayor McGinn said I-75 does apply to the situation “on a practical level” because it reflects the public’s changing attitude toward marijuana.
“Both the medical marijuana law and I-75 reflect the public’s intent with regard to marijuana, and that does influence how you think about your policies regarding it,” the Mayor said.