Washington: 5 Indicted In Federal Medical Marijuana Crackdown


Photo: KREM.com
Charles Wright was one of the five men federally indicted Wednesday in a federal crackdown on medical marijuana in Spokane, Washington

​A federal grand jury has indicted five medical marijuana dispensary owners in and near Spokane, Washington. On Wednesday, a laundry list of federal marijuana charges, including distributing and selling near an elementary school, were announced in the indictments.

Four of those indicted consist of two two-man owner teams from two separate Spokane dispensaries, while the fifth person indicted was allegedly cultivating more than 100 marijuana plants in Loon Lake, Washington.

Charles Wesley Wright and Jon Richard Vivian, owners of the THC Pharmacy on South Perry Street, and Jerry Wayne Laberdee and Dennis Lewis Whited, owners of Medical Herb Providers, face federal prison time under the multi-count indictments filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court, reports Meghann at the Spokane Spokesman-Review.

Photo: KREM.com
Jerry Wayne Laberdee: “I am almost without words. I can’t even tell you how ridiculous it seems.”

​”I am almost without words,” said Laberdee, reports KREM.com. “I can’t even tell you how ridiculous it seems.”
“I have no idea what I’m going to do now,” Wright said. “Obviously I face massive indictments which put incredible restrictions on my freedom.”
Both men said they felt betrayed because they were given permits for their businesses. They said they did everything according to state law, but now the state will not back them up in their fight against the federal government.
Laberdee maintained it was all about providing a needed service for patients. “I gave these people my word,” he said. “If you are not good for your word you aren’t good for anything.”
The charges are the latest in the escalating and misguided effort by federal authorities to stop marijuana sales in states where voters have approved its use for medicinal reasons.

Photo: Legal Joint
Lawyer Frank Cikutovich: “I just don’t see the need to put more people in prison for 5, 10, 15 years for producing medicine”

​”I think I’m more shocked than surprised,” said Spokane lawyer Frank Cikutovich, a self-described “toublemaker with a law degree” who is not officially working on any of the cases but has stayed in regular contact with members of the medical marijuana community. “They’ve all just been laying low hoping this day wouldn’t come.”
“I just don’t see the need to put more people in prison for 5, 10, 15 years for producing medicine,” Cikutovich said. 
Cikutovich said the cases will be difficult to defend, because dispensers were operating in the open under the assumption federal authorities weren’t interested after U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the Department of Justice wouldn’t prioritize medical marijuana cases which are in compliance with state law.
But after Washington Governor Christine Gregoire’s hen-hearted line-item veto of SB 5073, which was passed by the Legislature and would have legalized dispensaries in the state, even that wiggle-room was diminished.
Eastern Washington U.S. Attorney Mike Ormsby, along with his Western Washington counterpart, U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan, had warned medical marijuana providers back in April that they planned to enforce federal drug laws if dispensaries didn’t close immediately
Gov. Gregoire vetoed the dispensary bill after Ormsby and Durkan threatened to arrest and prosecute state employees involved in regulating the dispensaries.
Dispensaries across Spokane County, including THC Pharmacy and Medical Herb Providers, were raided three weeks later.
In addition to the four dispensary operators, also indicted was Russell Thomas Blake, accused of growing more than 100 marijuana plants on his property near Loon Lake. Federal agents searched the property on April 28. Blake is also charged with distribution of marijuana and possession with intent to distribute marijuana for incidents which occurred on April 20 and 21.
Blake is additionally charged with “maintaining a drug-involved premise,” which carries up to 20 years in federal prison.
Wright and Vivian face the same penalty if convicted of maintaining a drug-involved premise near a school. THC Pharmacy was located less than 1,000 feet from Grant Elementary School.
Wright and Vivian are also charged with distribution of marijuana near a school, possession with intent to distribute marijuana near a school, and “manufacture of marijuana” near a school. Each charge carries not less than one year and no more than 10 years in prison.
Laberdee and Whited are charged with distribution of marijuana, which carries up to five years in prison; “manufacture of marijuana,” which carries five to 40(!) years; and maintaining a drug-involved premise.
All five defendants also face forfeiture charges which calls for them to forfeit any property or proceeds supposedly derived from their “illegal operations.”
Cikutovich said he expects federal authorities to use business records seized from the dispensaries to quantify how much marijuana was sold.
“The businesses were trying to be as professional as possible and keep records,” Cikutovich said. “Unfortunately those records are now being used as Exhibit A. They basically collected evidence for the government to go in and take.”