OLYMPIA, WA — When Bayside Collective owner Casey Lee saw seven vehicles speed into the parking lot of his Olympia, Washington medical marijuana dispensary Wednesday morning, he thought he was being robbed, and told his employees to take cover.
“When I came outside, there were guns drawn on me,” Lee said Wednesday night. “And then I saw the badges.”
As DEA agents cleaned out the shelves of his dispensary, confiscating an estimated $2,500 worth of medical marijuana and 17 small marijuana plants, Lee says an agent asked him why he continued to remain in the business of providing medical marijuana.
“One of the DEA agents said: ‘This is your second raid and your third robbery. Why do you keep doing this?’” Lee said. ”I just told him it’s because we just enjoy helping people, and he told us that he wasn’t expecting that answer. They don’t get to see the cancer patients.”
Lee says another agent approached him during the raid and said, “Things are going to be hell for you.”
Lee’s Bayside Collective was one of several medical marijuana dispensaries in Washington raided by federal agents from the Drug Enforcement Agency Wednesday, in a sweep that stretched the I-5 corridor from Seattle to Tacoma to Olympia.
“Enforcement operations have concluded and due to the ongoing nature of the investigation we will only be able to provide the following information: Several search warrants were executed today involving marijuana storefronts in King, Thurston and Pierce Counties,” Drug Enforcement Administration spokeswoman Jodie Underwood said late Wednesday, but declined to provide any further explanation as to how many dispensaries were targeted, or why.
Washington is one of 20 states in the US that have authorized the medical use of marijuana, and one of two states where voters in November 2012 elected to legalize the possession and state regulated sale of marijuana to adults 21 or older.
According to Lee, his dispensary was doing everything it could to operate under Washington medical marijuana law, but agents told him he was being raided because marijuana remains illegal under federal law.
“We asked what we were doing wrong?” Lee said. “We thought we were complying with every law and everything and they said it’s federally illegal.”
Steve Sarich, executive director of the Cannabis Action Coalition, says the raids Wednesday weren’t about shutting down medical marijuana dispensaries at all.
He believes it is the federal government flexing their muscles in an ongoing battle between a state whose voters chose to legalize marijuana and the federal government refusing to back down from their stance that marijuana is very much illegal.
Sarich added that armed commando style raids on the medical marijuana community are unnecessary, saying that if federal authorities wanted the collectives to close, legal notices were equally, if not more, effective.
“What this is is urban terrorism, Sarich says. ”They want us uncomfortable. They want us scared all the time. If you get a cease and desist letter from the feds you shut down because you can’t really fight them but when they come in with machine guns and helmets, that’s to terrorize you and it’s to terrorize the community.”
DEA Agent to Raided WA Dispensary Owner: “Things Are Going to be Hell For You” was written by Scott Gacek and appears in full on The Daily Chronic.
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