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Posts tagged: pot

Feds nearing end of pot legalization review

The U.S. Justice Department reportedly is nearing the end of its review of Washington and Colorado's new laws legalizing marijuana and could be announcing soon how it will respond.

The issue is that while voters in Washington and Colorado have legalized pot under state laws, it remains illegal under federal law.

Attorney General Eric Holder told a meeting of state attorneys general he is examining policy options and international implications of the issue, The Associated Press reported today.

Holder's assessment could result in the federal government suing the states over the new laws, the wire service said. Alternatively, Holder could decide not to mount a court challenge. The Justice Department examination has been under way since shortly after last fall's elections. Washington and Colorado became the first states to pass laws legalizing the recreational use of marijuana.

State and local authorities have said they're hoping to get some sense of how the federal government will respond to voters' wishes before spending a lot of time and effort developing regulatory systems to control production and sale of legal pot.

Judge won’t reverse medical pot rulng

A judge has refused to reverse a decision about a marijuana search that local law enforcement says could hinder their ability to investigate pot cases.

U.S. District Judge Frem Nielsen said Monday that his decision to prohibit prosecutors from using marijuana plants and other evidence seized during a sheriff's search of a northeast Spokane County home last November stands.

Spokane lawyer Richard Wall, who represents one of five men indicted by a federal grand jury on marijuana charges, had written a motion asking Nielsen to suppress the evidence because police did not consider the Washington Legislature's overhaul of medical marijuana laws when they obtained a search warrant for the home.

“In this case they simply just did what they'd always done,” Wall said.

The Legislature had rewritten the law to state that using, growing or distributing marijuana in compliance with medical marijuana laws was not crime. Before July, it had been an affirmative defense - law enforcement could arrest users and make them prove their case in court.

The request from the U.S. Attorney's Office to reconsider the decision reiterated their previous argument that legislators did not intend to change the law when they rewrote it.

“The Court concurs with the Government that “it is axiomatic that plain language is to be given plain meaning and enforced accordingly,”” Nielsen wrote.  “Reading “use” to exclude possession, delivery, or manufacture would be in contravention to the entirety of the statute. It is impossible to imagine a scenario where a person could use without possessing. 

Further, the statute clearly indicates exactly how much a person can manufacture under the statute, so clearly the drafters anticipated that manufacture, under specific circumstances described by the statute, also is not a crime. Additionally, the statute permits a person to manufacture the medical marijuana for another, thus the statute addresses delivery of medical marijuana.”

A drug detective said the case could prohibit them from investigating suspected marijuana grows because it's difficult to establish whether someone's obeying medical marijuana laws.

Past coverage:

Feb. 14: Grand jury indicts men in marijuana grow

Nov. 21: 'Judge Judy' to feature Spokane pot defendant

Ruling puts marijuana searches in limbo

A recent court ruling that deemed a drug raid illegal has raised questions about how law enforcement in Spokane County investigate marijuana growers.

Sheriff’s detectives had reason to believe marijuana was being grown at a northeast Spokane County home when they raided it Nov. 2, but they didn’t have reason to believe the growers were violating the state’s medical marijuana law – or at least they didn’t say they did when they got authorization from a local judge to search the home.

A federal judge ruled the search violated Washington’s recently expanded law governing medicinal marijuana and last week prohibited prosecutors from using marijuana plants and other items seized at the large grow house.

Now a federal grand jury indictment against five young men, two of whom have previous drug convictions, is in limbo, and drug detectives in Spokane are wondering how they’ll continue investigating marijuana growers.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

Feb. 14: Grand jury indictments men in marijuana grow

Nov. 21: 'Judge Judy' to feature Spokane pot defendant

Grand jury indicts men in marijuana grow

Eight pounds of marijuana and more than 1000 plants seized from a Spokane County home in November has led to federal charges against six suspects. 

A grand jury this month indicted Jerad J. Kynaston, 23 (pictured left), Samuel M. Doyle, 25 (pictured right); Brice C. Davis, Jayde D. Evans, 24; Tyler S. McKinley, 27; and Peter M. Magana, 23, on marijuana manufacturing charges for plants found Nov. 2 during a search at 11900 N. Judkins Road.

Along with eight pounds of pot, Spokane County sheriff's detectives found 695 marijuana plants and 500 plants that had recently been harvested.

Each plant is generally capable of yielding one-half to one-pound of marijuana, leading investigators to value the seized pot and plants between $1.2 million and $2.4 million.

 “Numerous medical marijuana provider forms were located at the residence,” Sgt. Dave Reagan said in a new release at the time. “One of the patients had previously contacted the Sheriff's Office and complained that he had contracted with an individual associated with the Judkins Road address for his medical marijuana supply, but that this individual was selling the marijuana to other people rather than supplying the patient. The Washington state medical marijuana law has recently been amended to allow up to ten individuals to form a co-op and grow up to 45 marijuana plants. ”

Detectives searched Doyle's home in the 10900 block of East 7th Avenue in Spokane Valley on Nov. 16.

All suspects except Davis pleaded not guilty to the charges last week in U.S. District Court and remain in the Spokane County Jail without bail.

Each charge carries 5 to 40 years in prison unless the defendant has a previous felony drug conviction, in which case the minimum sentence is 10 years.

Kynaston was convicted in Spokane County in 2009 for being in possession of five pounds of marijuana. He also was convicted in Sherman County, Oregon in 2010 for being in possession of more than 10 pounds of marijuana. Doyle is on probation for possessing 10 pounds of marijuana in Oregon.

Past coverage:

Nov. 21: 'Judge Judy' to feature Spokane pot defendant

CdA man busted in Ore. w/ 10lbs of pot

A Coeur d'Alene man was arrested in Oregon Thursday with 10 pounds of marijuana. 

Seth Anthony Mitchell, 22, was stopped for a traffic violation while driving a 2004 Ford F-150 on Highway 97 north of Madras at milepost 78 about 12:30 p.m.

Troopers found oxycodone and hydrocodone and arrested Mitchell for two drug charges, then obtained a search warrant and found the marijuana, according to Oregon State Police.

Mitchell faces an additional charge of unlawful possession, distribution and manufacture of a controlled substance.

He was booked into the Jefferson County Jail.

Pot for homework-induced arthritis?

A medical marijuana patient contacted when a fire broke out at his Greenacres home told police he had been prescribed pot because of arthritis in his hand caused by “too much homework,” authorities say.

 The 19-year-old man and his 22-year-old roommate had 27 marijuana plants at his father's home in the 2500 block of South Timberlane Drive, which they are legally able to have under the state's medical marijuana law.

The plants were not seized after the fire last Friday, and neither man was arrested, but Spokane Valley police Sgt. Dave Reagan sent out a news release today that said Detective Travis Hansen asked the men what their special ailments were because “they were so young and appeared to be fit and in good health.”

In addition to the 19-year-old's reported homework-induced arthritis, the 22-year-old said he had severe pain in one of his feet. Reagan said suspicions were aroused when one of the tenants told a fire inspector had had “smoked a bowl” and left to get something to eat. 

But the fire does not appear to be caused by smoked marijuana, rather the 19-year-old may have discarded a cigarette in bark outside the home, said Bill Clifford, spokesman for the Spokane Valley Fire Department.

“He smokes a lot, both cigarettes and marijuana,” Clifford said. “He reminded me of Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High.”

Damage is estimated at $300,000, Clifford said. The home is insured.

The man's 53-year-old father suffered burns to right arm, neck and face while escaping the blaze, which began while he was downstairs watching TV. A smoke alarm alerted him to the blaze.

A neighbor also was treated for smoke inhalation he suffered while stopping the fire from spreading to his home.

Pot, pills found during jail strip search

A Spokane woman set to serve four months in jail for money laundering has been charged with another felony after corrections deputies found drugs during a strip search.

Rebecca Suzanne Townley, 33, had pills and suspected marijuana concealed in a condom when a corrections deputy searched her during booking on July 27, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

Another deputy also saw the contraband during the search, according to court documents.

Townley later admitted to investigators that she'd smuggled the drugs into the jail, documents say.

She appeared in Superior Court on Friday on a charge of prisoner in possession of a controlled substance.
  

Marijuana suspect calls on Willie Nelson

The daughter of a Spokane medical marijuana dispenser recently indicted in federal court is calling on legendary singer and pot advocate Willie Nelson to take up his cause.

In an email to The Spokesman-Review, Jessica Vogel-Laberdee asks Nelson, who plays outside at Northern Quest Casino on Sunday, “to speak out about the unjustice that my dad is facing.”

“I am aware that you owe us nothing, and doing this would be a gesture that would fulfill only my wildest dreams,” Vogel-Laberdee writes, “but I am sending you this because there is a chance that you will step into my dad's shoes (if only for a moment) and decide to take action.”

Nelson's publicist says he is on vacation until his concert and unavailable for comment. The country music legend has pot problems of his own - a judge in Texas recently rejected a proposed plea bargain that would have resolved a misdemeanor marijuana case with a fine.

Vogel-Laberdee is hoping Nelson can relate to her father, who she described as “completely unconventional” and said he “has the audacity to stand up for his belief that all people deserve to be happy, even in the face of illness.”

“He does not make any money for what he does, but he dedicates all of his time to his cause,” Vogel-Laberdee said. “…He is a man filled with wonderful visions and has taught me to be an individual in a world of drones.”

Jerry Wayne Laberdee is among five people charged with federal marijuana crimes for their work at dispensaries in Spokane, which were raided by federal agents three weeks after being told to shut down.

Laberdee and Medical Herb Providers co-owner Dennis Whited - who has said he began using medical marijuana after losing his leg in a crash in 2009 - 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, which carries up to 20 years in prison.

The five defendants also face a forfeiture charge that calls for them to forfeit any property or proceeds derived from their illegal operations.

Read Vogel-Laberdee's entire letter to Nelson by clicking the link below.

Gov. says she won’t sign medical pot bill

SEATTLE (AP) — Gov. Chris Gregoire says she won't sign legislation to create licensed medical marijuana dispensaries in Washington state after the Justice Department warned it could result in a federal crackdown.

The two U.S. attorneys in the state told Gregoire in a letter Thursday that bills passed by the Washington House and Senate would permit large-scale marijuana growing and distribution systems in violation of federal law. They warned that growers, sellers, landlords and even state employees who license such operations could face prosecution.

Gregoire says there's no way she can sign a law that would open state employees to federal prosecution. But she says there are problems with the state's medical marijuana law that make it difficult for sick people to get the drug, and she'll cooperate with lawmakers to address those problems.

Past coverage:

April 7: Spokane medical marijuana dispenaries on federal notice

Medical pot bill passes w/o pizza clause

OLYMPIA – Rules for growing, processing and selling medical marijuana passed the Washington state House of Representatives after heated debate Monday on whether the proposed law has enough safeguards to prevent sales to children.

Read the rest of Jim Camden's story here.

The bill passed the House without an amendment proposed as a joke by Rep. Glenn Anderson, R-Fall City (pictured).

 The amendment would require the state to reimburse medical marijuana patients for the cost of pizza they ate while high on legal pot.

The Department of Health would reimburse the patient “no later than five business days after the patient submits a receipt for the pizza,” according to the amendment, which Anderson withdrew on Monday.

The department would not reimburse for delivery charges, tips or more than three toppings.

“For purposes of this section, “pizza” means a pie with a bread crust topped with tomato sauce, cheese, and various toppings,” according to the amendment. “”Pizza” includes Chicago style deep dish, New York style thin crust, and stuffed crust.”

Some advocates criticized the amendment has insensitive to medical cannabis patients; others found it humorous.

Feds warn local marijuana dispensaries

Medical marijuana dispensaries in Spokane face federal prosecution if they do not end their operations immediately, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Wednesday.

Federal authorities hope for voluntary compliance but are prepared “for quick and direct action against the operators of the stores,” according to a statement by Mike Ormsby, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Washington.

Federal authorities will target both the operators of the stores and the owners of the properties where the stores are located, he said.

“We intend to use the full extent of our legal remedies to enforce the law,” Ormsby said. Depending on the amount of marijuana, some federal crimes carry mandatory minimum sentences of 10 years or more.

Read the rest of my story here.

Pot advocates speak to City Council

Medical marijuana supporters on Monday urged the Spokane City Council to support local dispensaries after a jury convicted an owner last week of felony drug charges.

 Representatives from Spokane Indicare and other dispensaries said they fear being shut down after Scott Shupe was found guilty last Thursday.

Indicare co-owner Surisa Arispe said the dispensary has paid $10,000 in sales taxes in the six months it’s been open.

City Council President Joe Shogan said he has no control over the state’s medical marijuana law.

“You want us to do something we have no power to do,” Shogan said. “Really, you should be contacting your legislator.”

Though the Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office has said dispensaries are illegal, authorities say more than 40 are operating in the area. No law enforcement actions against dispensaries have been reported since Shupe was convicted.

Lawyer Pat Stiley, who works with dispensaries, said Monday that he’s hoping Senate Bill 5073, which addresses dispensaries, will proceed in the Washington Legislature this week and give amnesty to current operations.

Stiley compared the fear from dispensary supporters after the Shupe verdict to the fear gripping Japan in the wake of a tsunami, earthquake and potential nuclear catastrophe.

“As you can imagine after that verdict, there was a lot of terror and fear in the community,” Stiley said. “The dispensary community in Spokane sounded a lot like the northern Japanese communities to me.”

Feds raid medical pot shops in Montana

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Federal agents with guns drawn raided at least 10 medical marijuana operations across Montana on Monday, the same a day that a bill to repeal the state's medical marijuana law stalled in the Legislature.

Agents near Helena burst into Montana Cannabis' greenhouse, where the company grows more than 1,600 plants for its four stores across the state. The greenhouse runs about half the length of a football field and is packed with marijuana plants that can be seen from U.S. Highway 12.

About 15 workers were inside the warehouse during the morning raid. Montana Cannabis employee Brett Thompson, 30, said he stepped outside to smoke a cigarette and saw agents running up the driveway.

“They came in, guns drawn, got us down on the ground and in cuffs as fast as they could,” Thompson said.

Federal agents detained Thompson and his co-workers in handcuffs outside the greenhouse, where sheriff's deputies and Helena police officers stood guard. Inside, agents in DEA and FBI jackets wearing respirator masks and blue gloves yanked waist-high plants from their pots and hauled them out of sight wrapped in blue tarps.

It was not immediately clear why the raids took place.

A spokeswoman in the U.S. attorney's office in Montana said the federal agents executed search warrants that are under seal. She declined to comment further.

Agencies involved included the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Medical marijuana has become a hotly debated issue in Montana, and the Legislature has been debating whether to eliminate the law. The industry has exploded in the last year and reached the point where one out of every 19 households in Montana now has a medical marijuana card.

Montana Cannabis co-owner Christopher Williams (left) told The Associated Press that raids were taking place at his business' four locations. An advocacy group, Americans for Safe Access, said at least 10 businesses were raided in six cities across the state.

The DEA and U.S. attorney's office would not confirm how many businesses were raided.

Thompson said they questioned each worker individually and then released them, except for one worker who had an outstanding warrant.

The search warrant allows agents to take the company's computers, data storage, products and plants, Williams said, but he wasn't sure why the raids were taking place. His personal and business bank accounts were also frozen, he said.

A warrant obtained by Americans for Safe Access and signed by U.S. magistrate judge Jeremiah Lynch of Missoula listed 13 items to be seized, including marijuana and hashish, drug paraphernalia, computers and other electronic storage devices, cell phones, firearms, transportation and customer records, transaction records, cash, jewelry and vehicle titles.

The warrant, which was for Big Sky Patient Care of Bozeman, did not say why the items were to be seized.

“It's strictly a political move to stop us from providing medicine to sick people,” Williams said, standing outside the fence at Montana Cannabis.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 6-6 to reject House Speaker Mike Milburn's House Bill 161, which would repeal the medical marijuana law approved by Montana voters in 2004. Republican Committee Chairman Sen. Terry Murphy said the panel will look into creating a reform bill to tighten regulation of the industry.

Barbara Trego, Williams' mother and another worker at the Montana Cannabis, was at the Capitol for the hearing, said she received word of the raid before the vote. She said some of the people who use the company's marijuana are cancer patients and she feared what would happen to them if the operation shut down.

“We weren't trying to hide anything. Our windows are open. Our door was open,” she said. “We've got patients that could die just by what's happened today.”

The raid caused traffic to slow as people passing by tried to ascertain what was happening. One man in a minivan honked his horn and shouted out the window, “Thank you, Helena Police Department! It's about time!”

Williams said of the 1,680 plants inside the greenhouse near Helena, 480 were flowering plants that produce about 5 ounces of marijuana each. He said he sells an ounce for $190 — meaning approximately $456,000 worth of marijuana was confiscated from that one location.

Marijuana dispensary trial begins today

A groundbreaking trial for the area's medical marijuana dispensaries is set to begin today in Spokane.

Scott Q. Shupe, 56, faces felony drug charges stemming from a 2009 police raid at Change, a pot dispensary he operated on Northwest Boulevard, near Maple Street. 

Prosecutors have said they believe dispensaries are illegal because they distribute marijuana to more than one patient.

But pot advocates note that the statute technically states a caretaker can provide to one person “at any one time.” Owners of medical marijuana dispensaries use that interpretation to justify their businesses; Shupe says he only sold marijuana to one patient in the business at a time.

The investigation began when a detective saw a TV news article about the business.

“The news story advised that Scott Shupe dispenses marijuana and that he grows, possesses and sells marijuana and that ‘it’s all perfectly legal,’” according to search warrants used in the September 2009 raid.

Shupe is represented by Frank Cikutovich. Teresa Border is prosecuting. Judge Tari Eitzen is presiding. Opening statements are expected this afternoon or Tuesday morning.

Trial for Change codefendant Christopher P. Stevens, 37, is scheduled to begin April 11.

While Spokane County authorities say the dispensaries are illegal, dozens are operating in the area, including one on Northwest Boulevard that offers to deliver.

Man w/ 50 lbs of pot jailed in Oregon

A Spokane man arrested in Oregon with 50 pounds of marijuana on Sunday remains in jail.

Michael Allen Orman, 30, has previous drug convictions in Spokane County in 2007 and 2006.

Police say he was driving a rented Dodge Charger when he was stopped about 7:15 p.m. Sunday for a traffic violation on Interstate 5 near Grants Pass.

Orman was wanted in Marion County, Ore., on a felony warrant for money laundering, according to Oregon State Police. His license also was suspended.

Orman was booked into Josephine County Jail on the felony warrant and the rental vehicle was towed and impounded.

Troopers obtained a search warrant for the vehicle Monday and found about 50 pounds of marijuana in the trunk, authorities said.

Orman is in the Josephine County Jail on charges of unlawful possession of marijuana and unlawful distribution of marijuana, as well the money laundering count.

Pot supporters halt City Council meeting

Supporters of marijuana legalization briefly halted last night's Spokane City Council meeting.

The protesters from Sensible Washington stood during the annual report to the council from Police Ombudsman Tim Burns, prompting City Council President Joe Shogan to order them to sit or leave. 

Rebeckah Aubertin, who said she is the Spokane recruiter for Sensible Washington, held two large signs.

One read: “Stop funding dirty cops.” Another said: “Prohibition hurts family.”

Jon Brunt has the full story at Spin Control.

Tuna, lost wallet busts robbery suspect

A box of Chicken of the Sea tuna and a lost wallet recently led to felony charges against a Spokane man suspected of robbing a medical marijuana patient at gunpoint.

Jesse Ryder Bender, 29, is in jail on $35,000 bond after appearing in Superior Court on two counts of unlawful imprisonment and two counts of first-degree robbery. He was arrested Feb. 21 after being released from jail Jan. 3 because prosecutors hadn't yet filed charges.

Bender was first arrested Dc. 30 while working at the High Nooner in downtown Spokane.

Detectives identified Bender as a suspect through a wallet left at the scene of the Dec. 28 robbery , in the 8000 block of E. South Riverway Ave. in Spokane Valley. Fingerprints on a box of Chicken of Sea also were identified as belonging to Bender, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Police say Bender asked a woman at the home if she'd ordered Chicken of the Sea when she answered the door, then forced his way into the home and gunpoint and tied the woman up. Her son had a medical marijuana card and maintained a small grow operation at the home.

Bender and another man not identified in court documents are accused of binding the woman and her other son with zip ties and stealing marijuana plants while the pot patient was at work.

Detectives discovered Bender's wallet in the grow room and contacted him at the sandwich shop, where he told them he may have lost his wallet on the bus.

Unpaid bar tab leads to ID theft arrest

An unpaid bar tab led to a woman's arrest on identity theft charges in Spokane Valley late Saturday.

A man and woman left the Corner Club Bar, 2208 N. Park Road, with a $117 bar tab after their debit card was declined but said they were going to their nearby motel room to get cash.

When they didn't return, a bar employee gave the declined debit card to Spokane Valley police Officer Justin Elliot, who determined it was stolen.

Employees at the nearby Red Top Motel said the woman named on the stolen card had rented a room there, so Elliot and  Officers Dale Wells and David Lawhorn  went to the room “and contacted an intoxicated Kathryn Elizabeth Reed,” police said.

Reed, 24, first claimed to be the woman named on the card. She invited police to retrieve her medical marijuana card from her purse when police spotted pot on the nightstand.

Police didn't find the card, but they did find identification belonging to Reed, as well as financial information and mail from five other people, according to a news release. Each person lives in the area of 11800 East Maxwell Avenue, where the declined debit card was reported stolen in a car prowling Feb. 18.

Reed was booked into jail on a felony count of second-degree identity theft and misdemeanor counts of third-degree theft (for the bar tab) and possession of marijuana. 

Pot provider acquitted of drug charges

VANCOUVER, Wash. (AP) — A Southwest Washington man who grew marijuana for a dying cancer patient has been acquitted of drug charges.

Mark Hensley of Vancouver was arrested a year ago with 133 marijuana plants, many of them small clones. Hensley's lawyer, Douglas Hiatt, says he was producing cannabis oil for a tenant who had esophageal cancer.

The tenant, William Britten, died in August.

Clark County Superior Court Judge Rich Melnick found Hensley not guilty on Friday.

Hiatt says his client was allowed to grow more than the state medical marijuana law's presumptive 15-plant limit because it takes a lot of marijuana to produce oil. Hiatt says the case cost Hensley a lot of time, grief and money.

The Seattle attorney is supporting an initiative to legalize marijuana for all adults because he says he's tired of seeing marijuana patients and their providers arrested.

2 cars, 3 lbs of pot seized in Cheney

A multi-agency marijuana investigation led to the seizure of two cars and 3 1/2 pounds of marijuana in Spokane County recently.

Cheney resident Brandon M. Collins, 27, is believed to have led the operation, which detectives say distributed more than five pounds of pot each week, mostly in Cheney and at Eastern Washington University.

Collins was arrested last Thursday following several undercover drug sales, according to a news release. He left jail on Friday after being released on his own recognizance. Investigators say Collins picked up several pounds of pot in Bellevue and often made deliveries while working for a cellular phone store in Cheney.

A second suspect, identified as a 25-year-old EWU student, has not been arrested or charged.

Investigators working with the Washington State Gambling Commission and Northern Quest Casino say Collins and his associates “appear to have laundered more than $380,000 through the casino during the last three years,” according to a news release by Sgt. Dave Reagan.

The investigation is being conducted by the Spokane Regional Drug Task Force, which is comprised of investigators from the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, Spokane Police and Spokane Valley Police Departments, Washington State Patrol, Drug Enforcement Agency and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

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