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Seized marijuana legalization petitions missing

By Gavin Dahl
Wednesday, May 26, 2010 23:25 EDT
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Task force allegedly held gun to 14-year-old boy’s head

The campaign director for Washington state’s marijuana legalization effort is unable to account for eight petitions allegedly seized from a medical marijuana dispensary by a drug task force during a raid two weeks ago.

“WestNET says it only seized two petitions,” Philip Dawdy told RAWSTORY in a phone interview. “What I am told by personnel at North End Club 420 is that ten petitions were seized. There are as many as eight sheets that are not accounted for at this point. There is a discrepancy between what WestNET has given back to us and what the dispensary says was seized. I can’t sort that discrepancy out.”

Sensible Washington is seeking to “remove state civil and criminal penalties for persons eighteen years or older who cultivate, possess, transport, sell, or use marijuana” through the initiative process. In order to get Initiative 1068 onto the November ballot in Washington, they must submit 241,153 valid signatures by July 2. Dawdy says his volunteers have collected over 100,000 but plan to triple that total over the next five weeks.

On the morning of May 11, detectives from the West Sound Narcotics Enforcement Team, a federally-funded, multi-jurisdictional task force showed up at the home of North End Club 420 patient coordinator Christine Casey. According to published reports, she says they held a gun to the head of her 14-year-old son and he was handcuffed for two hours. Adding insult to injury, they also seized $80 in cash from her 9-year old daughter’s Mickey Mouse purse. She had already caught the bus to school that morning. Casey says she had $80 because she was rewarded for making straight A’s.

Seattle Weekly reports:

According to court documents filed with the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office (see pdf), WestNet found $3,000 and 76 pot plants at the home (about half of which were small seedlings, Casey says). State law allows medical marijuana patients to keep only 15 plants on hand unless they can prove medical need for more. The task force also found 200 baggies of packaged marijuana at the dispensary itself.

The court documents say the raids followed an undercover operation in which a police operative repeatedly bought marijuana at the dispensary without producing a doctor’s recommendation, as state law requires before someone can legally use marijuana. The documents also say that the dispensary was charging double the street value for the pot.

Dawdy says the whole situation could be avoided in the future if voters show support for Sensible Washington in November. “Our initiative is designed to legalize marijuana,” he stated plainly. “Then we’ll let the legislature enact the regulations and whatever taxation scheme they might want to impose. It’s up to them to create the regulations.”

Dawdy went on to say he’s bothered that they would seize the petitions in the first place.

“They get a search warrant that allows them to seize all lists and ledgers,” he explained. “And you know, an initiative does look like a list or a ledger. But the truth of it is it says on the front of it it’s an initiative to the people. There’s formal language that’s in like 20 point type addressing it to the secretary of state of our state. It’s obviously not evidence of a criminal enterprise.” (see .pdf here)

“The truth of it is,” he continued, “when a place gets raided the cops sweep up every piece of paper and put it in a box and sort it out later. But I’m still a little bothered that they didn’t use discretion at the scene.” A writer for Firedoglake is crying foul over the First Amendment implications of the seizure, seeking support to encourage the task force to put more effort into recovering the missing petitions.

Dawdy’s bigger question is why a partially-federally-funded task force is going after a dispensary in Tacoma, WA that the local police had no problem with. “This place has been open for 4 months,” he said. “The local Tacoma police had no problem with the place.”

“Both the President and the Attorney General have been very clear that they do not want to use federal resources to enforce federal laws in states with (their own) medical marijuana laws. I’m not saying these guys are a rogue task force or anything, but you gotta be kidding.”

Meanwhile, Dawdy says he was assured by a member of the WestNET task force that nothing is being done with the photocopies the agency has acknowledged making of the two petitions that were returned this week. Still, they’re considered a formal part of the evidence.

“So I said, well how do we get them destroyed? And they said you’ve gotta get an agreement between the defense attorney and the prosecuting attorney in this case to have them destroyed,” Dawdy told RAWSTORY. When he asked if anybody at WestNET would oppose their destruction he was told no, absolutely not.

“One of the members of the WestNET task force told me that they are very interested in seeing our issue get on the ballot,” Dawdy continued. “They think it’s an important question that needs to be resolved. So I told the detective I hope you vote yes on November 2nd.”

 
 
 
 
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