The Feds say they're only helping to enforce state laws (photo: Thomas Hawk)

In one of the largest day of raids on marijuana dispensaries since President Obama took office, at least 14 dispensaries were hit in Washington state yesterday in a coordinated set of actions. From the Seattle Times:

At least 14 Puget Sound-area medical-marijuana dispensaries were swept up in a long-expected law-enforcement raid that ranks as the largest since the state approved medical marijuana.

The coordinated raids across Thurston, Pierce and King counties targeted dispensaries that, according to law enforcement, were hiding behind the medical-marijuana law to make illegal sales, in some cases to people who were not patients. More than a dozen people were arrested.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle said the raids in Seattle were part of four ongoing investigations.

The multiple raids across Washington state included both local and federal law enforcement agencies.

According to a statement from the Department of Justice, the dispensaries targeted were not just violating federal laws against marijuana; they were also in violation of the state’s medical marijuana law. From United States Attorney office of the Western District of Washington:

Today, Drug Enforcement Administration agents and local law enforcement executed search warrants in four ongoing federal investigations in Western Washington relating to illegal drug distribution and other crimes in violation of federal law. Each of the investigations targets commercial enterprises that purport to operate as “medical” marijuana establishments but also fail to comply with applicable state law.

As set forth in the search warrant affidavits unsealed by the U.S. District Court today, these businesses attracted the attention of federal law enforcement for a number of reasons: their failure to abide by state medical marijuana guidelines; indications that they were distributing large amounts of drugs; and evidence they were laundering large amounts of money. Some of these marijuana stores were the subject of complaints from their surrounding communities as well as medical marijuana supporters, concerned about businesses operating outside the letter and spirit of state law. One operator was arrested this morning for violating the court ordered terms of his federal supervised release for a prior federal conviction.

*emphasis added.

We will likely find out in the coming months if these raids were just another piece of the Obama administration’s multi-agency war on medical marijuana or were exclusively about prosecuting a handful of bad actors who were  flaunting the state’s medical marijuana laws.

It would be easier to believe the DOJ’s claims that these federal raids were part of a good faith effort to enforce the state’s medical marijuana laws if Obama administration had not already taken so many actions to undermine states’ medical marijuana systems.