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It’s been a bad week for Kent’s medical marijuana community.
First came news that the City Council had enacted a six-month moratorium on marijuana dispensaries and community gardens, and just this afternoon Kent police used search warrants to raid four of the city’s dispensaries for allegedly violating state drug laws.
The events were just the latest in a months-long process of ridding the city of the dispensaries. The city first sent cease-and-desist letters to the four businesses, all located in the Kent Valley, in early June. A second set of notices were delivered three weeks later.
After observing the businesses last week and learning that they were still operational, police requested search warrants from the Kent Municipal Court that would allow them to seize marijuana, computers, cell phones, weapons and security devices from each business.
Although 1998’s Initiative 692 legalized the use of medical marijuana in Washington, Gov. Chris Gregoire recently vetoed sections of a bill that would have protected the actual dispensaries, which Mayor Suzette Cook said left the laws murky.
“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,” Cooke said.
Put another way, state law says the clinics can grow the marijuana, but it's illegal to buy or sell it. And you can only possess it legally if you have a medical marijuana card.
Cooke says now every single clinic owner is under investigation. She said she made the decision to approve the warrants for the four raided Wednesday after she claims they lied on their business licenses saying they weren't selling pot.
"We sent out numerous letters, we had conversations with the managers, owners, landlords," Cooke said. "This was the final straw - on our end of it - to make sure those businesses are not operating."
However, medical marijuana advocates say the clinics were not selling marijuana.
"That's not what this is and Kent has it backwards," said Jason with Thclist.com.
Instead, one of the clinics, Evergreen Holistic Center, says it charged patients a processing fee for picking-up marijuana, but they claim the fee went solely to operating expenses.
"This isn't a dispensary -- this is a collective of medicinal patients getting together supplying each other with medicine that we can't get from the federal government," he said.
And it turns out, both sides may be right. Last legislative session, Gregoire vetoed a bill that listed rules for businesses that sold marijuana. And without those rules, it left the decision up to local jurisdictions, like Kent, to decide whether businesses can stay open.
The rules would have included how many times a month a clinic could dispense marijuana to a patient and how and where it could be grown. One Kent official said without those rules, the city feared they might soon become the place to grow and warehouse marijuana for clinics everywhere, especially because two of the clinics they raided ran out of large, commercial office spaces.
So Kent decided to shut them all down and the marijuana seized will be held as evidence.
No arrests were made but police are still investigating and the cases will be referred to the Kent City Attorney for prosecution.
Submitted by Conor Christofferson, KOMO Communities Reporter
Wednesday, July 6th,
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