Following the results of last November’s vote to legalize marijuana in Washington State, there has been much speculation about the federal government’s response.
With marijuana still illegal on a national level, officials from Attorney General Holder on down have been quick to reaffirm federal authority. They have also been frustratingly silent on what actions, if any, the various government agencies might take.
If actions speak louder than words, however, it appears the silent treatment is over.
On Wednesday, federal agents raided three Western Washington medical marijuana dispensaries, including a downtown Tacoma storefront operation known as Tacoma Cross (TNT 7/25). With search warrants and weapons in hand, DEA agents entered and shut down these businesses, which were in no way attempting to hide their purpose.
In past columns, I have asserted that a laissez faire drug marketplace – one unwilling to do the proper paperwork or abide by the fine print – would not be tolerated by federal law enforcement officials. Though President Obama has appeared uninterested in challenginging Washington’s new legalization statute thus far, I pointed out that it would be foolish for marijuana advocates to interpret this as an endorsement.
Having worked closely with federal narcotics agents, I know that their desire to arrest those manufacturing, selling and abusing illegal drugs has not diminished. Despite the “wait and see” approach most federal agencies seem to have taken towards semi-legitimate marijuana operations, it is now clear that they have been quietly investigating them the entire time.
Which raises the question, what, if anything, do these search warrants represent in terms of the federal governments’ policy towards state approved legalized pot?
To answer that question requires knowledge of the circumstances that led agents to conduct the drug raids in the first place. Was it simply the fact that these businesses sold a product outlawed by the federal government? If so, then that would be a definitive answer.
However, if these businesses, including Tacoma Cross, were targeted because they conducted transactions well beyond the psuedo-medicinal field, well…
That would be a blow to pot advocates who worked so diligently to draft the solid piece of legislation passed last November. It would mean that, once again, the drug culture’s pervasive greed has insinuated itself into what could be a promising and legitimate business model.
Again, that judgment will have to wait until the facts behind these raids become clear.
Either way, if individuals or businesses, in their rush to cash in on legalized marijuana, attempt to circumvent or ignore our state’s emerging policies, then the federal government will be ready for them.
With the paperwork filled out correctly.