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Feds raid more Spokane marijuana dispensaries

Federal agents, assisted by Spokane Police, raided marijuana dispensaries today, including one on Freya Street just north of the intersection with Sprague Avenue.

Spokane Police Detective Tom Hendren said he was assisting the federal Drug Enforcement Administration with a federal warrant, but he could not give any more specifics.

He referred all questions, including whether other locations were being raided, to Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Rice. Rice declined comment other than to confirm the search warrant at Medical Herb Providers at 322 N. Freya St.

“It’s one of several,” he said referring to the search warrants. “I can’t say any more than that because the operations are on going.”

Federal agents hit seven dispensaries on April 29, but none of those cases have yet resulted in charges.

The U.S. attorney’s office sent dispensary operators notices in April advising them to shut down or risk federal enforcement action. Many of the estimated 40 medical marijuana dispensaries reportedly complied, but not all.

Washington voters overwhelmingly approved medicinal use of marijuana in 1998, but the ballot measure left open the question of how doctor-approved users can legally obtain their pot. Advocates say the state law allows for dispensaries under its “caretaker” provision, but a Spokane County Superior Court jury rejected that argument last month in the first drug-trafficking trial of its kind in Washington.

Additionally, federal prosecutors note that while state law allows for medical use of marijuana, federal law still considers all marijuana possession and use illegal.

Steve Sarich, executive director for the Seattle-based CannaCare, expressed dismay that federal officials would continue to target businesses that are trying to get medicine to patients.

“This is just the beginning of the raids,” he said. “Our legislature has to start sticking up for us. The voters voted for this. They are treating marijuana as a law enforcement issue. It’s not. It’s a medical issue.”



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