Police Raids

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Police Shoot, Kill 80-Year Old Man In His Own Bed

The recklessness of drug raids...
 

Chronicle AM -- February 10, 2014

State legislatures are busy with drug policy issues, particularly marijuana and medical marijuana, a Texas grand jury refuses to indict a man who killed a cop in a no-knock drug raid, Mexican vigilantes are duking it out with the Knights Templar in Michoacan, and more. Let's get to it:

Marijuana Policy

Southern Cannabis Reform Conference in Atlanta Next Month. Peachtree NORML is hosting a marijuana reform conference in Atlanta on March 22. Click on the title link for ticket information.

Washington Bill Would Use Marijuana Revenue to Help Fund College Tuition. A bill introduced by Sen. Mike Baumgartner (R-Spokane) to effectively cap tuition rates at state colleges and universities relies in part on expected marijuana tax revenues. The bill, House Bill 6043 is part of Baumgartner's broader plan to improve basic education and ease the tuition burden on college students.

Legalization Bill Stalls in New Mexico Senate. A bill that would let New Mexico voters decide whether to legalize marijuana is stalled -- at least for now -- in the state Senate. The Rules Committee last Friday failed to debate it, but bill sponsor Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino said he hoped the committee would take it up this week.

New Hampshire House Subcommittee Meeting on Legalization Bill Today. A House Ways and Means Committee subcommittee is discussing the revenue and regulatory aspects of a bill that would make marijuana legal and regulate it like alcohol in the Granite State. House Bill 492 would make personal possession and home cultivation of limited amounts of marijuana legal for adults age 21 and older. It would also direct the state to license and regulate marijuana retail, cultivation, production, and testing facilities. The subcommittee is expected to consider changes to the bill's proposed system for taxing and regulating marijuana. The bill has already passed the House once, but must do so again before heading to the Senate.

Los Angeles Mayor Suggests He Could Support Legalization. In an interview with a local TV station, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti suggested he could support an initiative that legalized marijuana. "[Legalizing marijuana] would make life easier to me in terms of the regulations... I think there's probably a majority of Californians that would like to see that, and I generally would be for that. I've never seen much of a difference between marijuana and alcohol... alcohol has rules around it," Garcetti said. "If we had something similar with marijuana it would probably be a good revenue generator." To listen, go to the 3:23 mark in the second video.

Hawaii Appeals Court Nixes Local Lowest Law Enforcement Priority Initiative. The Hawaii Intermediate Court of Appeals ruled last Friday that a voter-approved Hilo County initiative directing law enforcement to make adult personal use of marijuana on private property its lowest priority is unenforceable. The 2008 initiative won handily in Hilo, but the county council failed to implement it. Both a district court and now the appeals court have ruled that state marijuana laws preempt it. Advocates vowed to appeal to the state Supreme Court.

Oregon Bill to Refer Legalization to Voters Gets Hearing Tuesday. A bill that would put a legislature-written marijuana legalization initiative on the November ballot gets a hearing Tuesday. Senate Bill 1556 is set for a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Medical Marijuana

Oregon Bill to Let Localities Ban Dispensaries Gets Hearing Tuesday. A bill that would allow cities and counties to ban dispensaries gets a hearing Tuesday. The bill, Senate Bill 1531, will be heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Colorado Patient Wins Fight to Stay in Federal Housing. A quadriplegic medical marijuana patient who was threatened with eviction from the Longmont Housing Authority has prevailed in her struggle to remain, and she has prompted the housing agency to create a new policy. Ashley Weber is that patient.

Support for Medical Marijuana in Guam at 55%. A University of Guam poll has support for medical marijuana at 55%. The poll comes as the Guam legislature considers a bill that would ask residents to vote in a referendum to approve medical marijuana.

Support for Medical Marijuana in Kentucky at 52%. The latest Bluegrass Poll has support for medical marijuana in Kentucky at 52%, with 37% opposed. Last year, the same poll had support for "prescribed" marijuana at 60%. This year's poll dropped "prescribed," and that accounted for the difference, said pollster Jay Leve of SurveyUSA. A CBD medical marijuana bill is currently before the legislature.

Support for Medical Marijuana Amendment in Florida at 57%. A Gravis Marketing poll has support for the state's medical marijuana initiative at 57%, with 31% opposed. But support dropped dramatically when voters were reminded that the production and sale of marijuana remained illegal under federal law, with 54% opposing, 27% supporting, and 19% uncertain.

Arizona Officials Propose Easing Rules. State health officials are proposing changes for Arizona's medical marijuana program, including one that would allow additional permit holders to grow their own. Click here to check out the proposed draft rules.

Wisconsin CBD Medical Marijuana Bill Gets Hearing Wednesday. A bill that would allow for the use of CBD cannabis oil gets a hearing in the Assembly Committee on Children and Families Wednesday. The bill, Assembly Bill 726, has three Republican cosponsors, but faces other hostile Republican legislators.

Methamphetamine

South Dakota Bill to Add State to National Monitoring System Passes Senate. A bill that would add South Dakota to the National Precursor Log Exchange (NPLEx) passed the Senate last week and now heads to the House. Senate Bill 24 is supported by Attorney General Marty Jackley and other state officials. Under the bill, retailers selling pseudoephedrine (e.g. Sudafed) would electronically submit the purchaser's name, date of birth and address, along with the quantity sold at the specific time and date. [Ed: Methamphetamine manufacturing rings have gotten around pseudoephedrine purchase limits by hiring "smurfers" to buy the substance for them. It's not clear how the national database will be more effective in this regard than previous monitoring systems.]

Drug Testing

West Virginia Public Benefits Drug Testing Bill Targets Felons and Drug Offenders. Convicted felons and drug offenders would have to pass a drug test before obtaining federal or state assistance under a bill introduced in the state legislature last Thursday. House Bill 4433 would mandate that those who fail the drug tests would be ineligible to apply for assistance for two years, but that would drop to six months if they took drug treatment and passed a second drug test. The bill is before the House Judiciary Committee.

Sentencing

Missouri Criminal Code Revisions Would Cut Drug Sentences. An 1,100-page bill that revamps the state's criminal laws reduces a number of drug sentences. Marijuana possession would be reduced from up to a year in jail to no jail time for first offenders. Felony drug possession maximum sentences would drop from seven years to four. The bill has more support in the Senate than in the House, where Rep. Stanley Cox (R-Sedalia), head of the House Judiciary Committee, said he opposed using the bill to change the drug laws. The bill is Senate Bill 491.

Federal Judge Cuts Marijuana Sentences, Citing Likely Federal Sentencing Reforms. Why wait? A Tennessee federal judge last Thursday gave reduced prison sentences to three major marijuana offenders, saying he expects Congress to act to lower sentences for drug offenders. Judge Curtis Collier citing the pending approval of the Smarter Sentencing Act and recommendations from the US Sentencing Commission. The three defendants got about half the prison time they otherwise would have.

Law Enforcement

Innovative Diversion Program Underway in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The Santa Fe city council has approved adoption of the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program pioneered in Seattle. Instead of sending minor offenders back into the criminal justice system, LEAD offers them a chance to obtain essential wraparound services, such as housing, job training, transportation, counseling and addiction treatment -- all of which might help them stay away from crime and live a better life. The Drug Policy Alliance is credited with turning local leaders on to the program.

Utah Cops Pay $75,000 to Settle Wrong House Drug Raid Lawsuit. Salt Lake City will pay $75,000 to settle a claim filed by a 76-year-old woman after narcotics detectives raided the wrong house and pointed a gun at her. The no-knock raid in 2012 led to an immediate apology by the police chief and new leadership in the narcotics division. The claim was actually settled in November, but local media only unearthed it after filing FOIA requests.

Texas Grand Jury Refuses to Return Murder Indictment Against Home Owner Who Killed Cop in No-Knock Drug Raid. A Central Texas grand jury has refused to return a murder indictment against a Burleson County man who shot and killed sheriff's Sgt. Adam Sowders as Sowders led a group of law enforcement raiders through the door of the man's mobile home in a no-knock, pre-dawn drug raid on December 19. The raiders had a search warrant for the home of Henry Goedrich Magee and were looking for marijuana plants and guns. But when they burst through the door, Magee, who was sleeping with his girlfriend, feared a home invasion robbery, grabbed a gun from his bed side, and opened fire, killing Sowders.

International

Britain's Nick Clegg Continues Stirring the Pot on Drug Reform. Liberal Democrat leader and coalition government junior partner Nick Clegg continues to demand that drug reform be taken seriously in Britain. He penned a strong op-ed in The Observer Sunday bewailing the failures of the drug war and calling for an end to "the tradition where politicians only talk about drug reform when they have left office because they fear the political consequences."

Colombians Say Mexican Cartels are Now Cooking Their Own Cocaine. Mexican drug cartels are moving on from importing South American cocaine and are now manufacturing their own, according to Colombian authorities. The claim came after Colombian police busted a load of more than a thousand pounds of coca paste as it was being loaded on a plane to Mexico. "It's the first time we've made that kind of seizure," General Ricardo Restrepo, head of the police anti-narcotics unit, said. "If they're buying paste, it's because they have a laboratory there."

Mexican Vigilantes Take Over Cartel-Held Michoacan City. Anti-cartel vigilantes now organized as part of state police forces arrived in the Knights Templar stronghold of Apatzingan, Michoacan, on Saturday. Hundreds of vigilantes, backed by armored vehicles and army troops moved into the center of town. Searches for Knights Templar leaders and members are now reportedly underway.

Texas Man Not Indicted For Killing Cop in No-Knock Drug Raid

It happens on a regular basis. Police conducting no-knock drug raids shoot and kill residents, claim they feared for their lives, and walk away free. But now, the shoe is on the other foot.

A Central Texas grand jury has refused to return a murder indictment against a Burleson County man who shot and killed sheriff's Sgt. Adam Sowders as Sowders led a group of law enforcement raiders through the door of the man's mobile home in a no-knock, pre-dawn drug raid on December 19.

The raiders had a search warrant for the home of Henry Goedrich Magee and were looking for marijuana plants and guns. But when they burst through the door, Magee, who was sleeping with his girlfriend, feared a home invasion robbery, grabbed a gun from his bed side, and opened fire, killing Sowders.

"This was a terrible tragedy that a deputy sheriff was killed, but Hank Magee believed that he and his pregnant girlfriend were being robbed," Magee's lawyer, renowned Texas criminal defense attorney Dick DeGuerin told the Associated Press. "He did what a lot of people would have done. He defended himself and his girlfriend and his home."

DeGuerin added that he could not recall another instance of a Texas grand jury declining to indict a defendant in the death of an officer.

The grand jury did indict Magee for the possession of a small number of marijuana plants and for having a gun while growing the pot plants. That charge is possession of marijuana while in possession of a deadly weapon, a third-degree felony. Conviction on a third-degree felony charge is punishable by from two to 10 years in state prison.

Burleson County District Attorney Julie Renken said after the grand jury decision that she thought the shooting had "occurred in a matter of seconds amongst chaos" and she thought the sheriff's office had done things correctly, "There is not enough evidence that Mr. Magee knew that day that peace officers were entering his home," she conceded.

Renken vowed to "fully prosecute" the remaining case against Magee, who has been jailed without bond in nearby Washington County. DeGeurin said Magee will likely be released soon, since he faces only the marijuana and gun charge.

This was all over some pot plants.

Caldwell , TX
United States

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Bad cops get sued in Chicago, drugs are missing in Baltimore, an Ohio cop rips off the DARE program, and a Louisiana jailer gets caught smuggling pot and tobacco. Let's get to it:

In Chicago, a Chicago-area couple sued a local drug task force on December 28, charging that members of the Lake County Metropolitan Enforcement Group (MEG) illegally detained them without cause and ransacked their vehicle and home for drugs, but, not finding any drugs, instead stole thousands of dollars worth of items, including money orders, which have been cashed by the MEG. MEG has denied stealing the other items, including a flat screen TV.

In Baltimore, drug evidence went missing from the Baltimore Police evidence room last Thursday. The evidence room is on the upper floor of police headquarters in downtown Baltimore. Police would not say what or how much was taken. The department is investigating.

In Amite City, Louisiana, a Tangipahoa Parish jail deputy was arrested Monday on charges he was conspiring to bring drugs into the jail and sell them to inmates. Patrick Collins, 58, went down after the sheriff's office received information that he planned to smuggle drugs in on that day, and he was caught with four separate packages containing marijuana and tobacco. He is charged with one count of malfeasance in office, two counts of introduction of contraband into a penal institution and possession with intent to distribute schedule 1 narcotics. At last report, Collins was still in jail in a neighboring parish.

In Troy, Ohio, a former Troy police officer pleaded guilty December 24 to ripping off the DARE program. Kirt Wright, 41, copped to running up $15,000 in unauthorized charges for his own use on the DARE program credit card. He pleaded guilty to one count of felony theft in office. He's looking at up to three years in prison at sentencing.

Texas Deputy Killed in Dawn No-Knock Drug Raid

A Burleson County, Texas, sheriff's deputy leading a dawn, no-knock drug raid was shot and killed by the homeowner last Thursday. Sgt. Adam Sowders becomes the 40th person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

Deputy Adam Sowders was killed executing a no-knock drug raid over some marijuana plants. (http://www.co.burleson.tx.us)
Although Sowders was killed early last Thursday morning, we delayed reporting the story because the sheriff's department refused for several days to release search warrant information that would have verified it was indeed a drug-related search warrant.

According to the Bryan-College Station Eagle, Sowders had obtained a search warrant for the residence after obtaining information that the homeowner was growing marijuana and possibly had stolen guns. The warrant was a "no-knock" warrant, meaning police could forcibly enter the residence without giving residents a chance to respond.

Sowders, the first officer through the door, was shot and killed by homeowner Henry Goedrich Magee, 28, who has now been charged with capital murder. But Magee's attorney, famed Houston defense lawyer Dick DeGuerin, said Magee and his pregnant girlfriend were sleeping in the home when they heard "explosives" going off and loud pounding at the door. Moments later, the door burst open and a person Magee couldn't identify entered the residence. Magee grabbed a rifle leaning against his bedroom door frame and shot Sowders. According to DeGuerin, Magee shot him because he "believed the man rushing in was an intruder and he needed to defend himself."

Magee has a felony and a misdemeanor drug conviction, but DeGuerin said all investigators found inside the trailer were a few marijuana plants and four guns that were all legal. DeGuerin pointed at the no-knock warrant as a contributing factor in Sowder's death.

"The danger is that if you're sitting in your home and it's pitch black outside and your door gets busted in without warning, what the hell are you supposed to do?" DeGuerin said.

Somerville, TX
United States

Ohio Woman Killed By Errant Shot in Drug Raid

A Ross County, Ohio, woman was shot and killed in an apparent accidental discharge of a deputy's weapon during a December 11 drug raid. Krystal Barrows, 35, becomes the 39th person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

Krystal Barrows (facebook.com)
According to the Chillicothe Gazette, citing law enforcement sources, the US 23 Task Force was preparing to raid the home, where they expected to encounter a large amount of heroin, as well as weapons, when the weapon of a deputy standing outside the mobile home discharged, traveling through the wall and striking Barrows.

When police entered the mobile home, Barrows was sitting on the living room couch "in critical condition" from a bullet wound to the head. She was taken from the scene in a medical helicopter, but was pronounced dead upon arrival at Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center.

Six people were charged during the raid; two others were detained and questioned before being released. A total of 11 people, including a juvenile female, were inside the mobile home when the US 23 Task Force arrived to serve the warrant. The raiders found what they were looking for: "large amounts of heroin," multiple weapons, a large amount of cash, and likely stolen goods.

Barrows, a mother of three, had no criminal record except for one arrest for public intoxication.

The police shooter has been identified as Ross County Sheriff's Sgt. Brett McKnight, an 11-year veteran of the force. The Ohio Bureau of Investigation is looking into the case.

Local media complained that the sheriff's office refused to release incident reports on the raid and shooting, even though the state Supreme Court has ruled that they must be released immediately.

Chillicothe, OH
United States

Chronicle AM -- December 20, 2013

A pair of state appeals courts slap down cops who take people's medicine and won't give it back, there are problems with Kansas' drug testing law, Peru is buying shining new toys to prosecute its drug war, and more. Let's get to it:

Hash is medicine, and the cops have to give it back, the Oregon appeals court ruled. (wikimedia.org)
Marijuana Policy

DPA California Initiative Revised. The Control, Regulate and Tax Marijuana initiative, filed earlier this month by the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), has been revised. The new version increases the personal grow limit from four plants to six, makes the 1,000-foot buffer rule around schools optional instead of mandatory, and makes the California Industrial Hemp effectively immediately. Left intact were no changes in criminal penalties, no changes in the state's medical marijuana law, and a 25% tax on adult retail sales. DPA head Ethan Nadelmann said in a conference call yesterday that the group would decide early next year whether to move forward for 2014.

Medical Marijuana

Oregon Appeals Court Rules Cops Must Give Back Seized Medical Hash. The Oregon Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday in Oregon v. James Jonathan Ellis that a medical marijuana patient whose hash was seized during an arrest can get it back. A district court judge had refused to order it returned, finding that hash wasn't covered under the state's medical marijuana law, but the appeals court disagreed, citing the federal Controlled Substances Act's definition of marijuana, which Oregon's law adopted, and which includes "every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of the plant or its resin."

Colorado Appeals Court Rules Cops Must Give Back Seized Medical Marijuana. The Colorado Court of Appeals ruled Thursday in Colorado v. Robert Clyde Crouse that a district court judgment ordering Colorado Springs Police to return marijuana seized from leukemia patient Crouse was correct. Colorado Springs authorities had argued that federal drug laws preempted their returning Crouse's medicine, but neither the district court nor the appeals court was buying it.

Wyoming Legislator to Introduce Medical Marijuana Bill. Rep. Sue Wallis (R-Recluse) said this week that she intends to introduce a bill in the legislative session that starts early next year to allow the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Wallis said the death a year ago of her husband, Rod McQueary, brought the issue of legalizing medical marijuana into sharp focus for her. She said he benefited greatly from medical marijuana from Colorado in his last days.

Asset Forfeiture

Michigan Legislator Introduces Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill. Rep. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) has introduced a bill, House Bill 5213,that would prohibit civil asset forfeiture unless and until a person is convicted of a criminal offense. "Asset forfeiture was sold as a needed tool for law enforcement to attack drug kingpins and gang leaders," Rep. Irwin said. "[But] too often, law enforcement uses the current asset forfeiture law to take tens of millions of dollars every year, mostly from low-level users and small-time dealers. We need to change how asset forfeiture works. By requiring a person be convicted of a crime before their seized property is subject to forfeiture, we will stop the worst abuses and curtail the insidious incentives that lead some law enforcement to short circuit due process and the fundamental principle that a person is innocent until proven guilty."

Drug Testing

Kansas Drug Testing Law Punishes Welfare Recipients, But Lets Lawmakers Skate. The Kansas legislature this year passed a bill, Senate Bill 149, that allows for drug testing of welfare recipients. Amid charges of hypocrisy, solons added language to include drug testing of themselves. But Wednesday, the director of Legislative Administrative Services, who is charged with implementing legislator testing, told legislative leaders that the law does not include any ramifications for a positive drug test and does not explicitly make the results public, so he will be treating them as confidential medical records.

Sentencing

Connecticut Sentencing Commission Recommends Cutting Drug-Free Zones. The Connecticut Sentencing Commission recommended Thursday that lawmakers sharply curtail drug-free zones around schools. The commission said they created racial disparities, unfairly affecting blacks and Latinos, who are more likely to dwell in urban areas, where schools and day cares are more densely packed. The commission recommended scaling the zones back from 1,500 feet to 200 feet. It also recommended limiting drug-free zone charges to those actually intending to infringe on the zones, as opposed to those just passing through.

International

Peru in Half-Billion Dollar Deal to Buy Russian Helicopters for Anti-Drug, Anti-Terrorism Effort. The Peruvian and Russian governments announced a deal Wednesday in which Russia will provide 24 Mi-171 helicopters to the Peruvian armed forces. The Peruvians plan to use them for anti-narcotics and anti-terrorism work in the central mountain areas where coca leaf and cocaine production are widespread.

Belgian Cannabis Social Club Raided. Belgian police acting on orders of the Justice Ministry raided the country's second cannabis club Wednesday (sorry, link in Dutch only). Raiders hit the Mambo Social Club in Hasselt, which follows the country's one-plant-per-person guidelines, seizing plants, records, and computer equipment. No word yet on any criminal charges.

Chronicle AM -- December 17, 2013

Seattle and Denver get down to the nitty-gritty of dealing with the details of marijuana legalization, a conservative Southern congressman comes out for medical marijuana, Detroit cops go on mass raids, and a British TV debate over drug policy gets heated. And more. Let's get to it:

Matthew Perry (l) squares off against Peter Hitchens (r) in fiery BBC Newsnight drug debate.
Marijuana Policy

Colorado Facing Backlog for Pot Shop Employee Licensing. Colorado marijuana retail employees are required to undergo criminal and financial background checks and be fingerprinted before being issued a state badge to work in the industry, but there is a large backlog of would-be employees trying to get through the process. State officials say they are trying to speed up the process. The first stores are supposed to open in two weeks on January 1. Do convenience store clerks who sell beer and wine have to go through this?

Denver City Council Approves Decriminalization for Tweeners. The Denver city council voted Monday night to decriminalize pot possession for 18-to-20-year-olds. The move addresses a quirk in the law that left the age group subject to jail time for simple possession while those 21 and over can legally possess it and those under 18 are not prosecuted but sent to a juvenile assessment.

Seattle City Council Sets $27 Fine for Public Pot Smoking. The Seattle city council voted Monday to set fines for public pot smoking at $27. Seattle police will issue warnings "whenever practicable" instead of issuing the citation. The fine amount is the same as the fine for public drinking.

Philadelphia Smoke Down Prohibition Activist Sentenced to One Year Probation. Comedian NA Poe was sentenced to one year probation last Friday after being arrested in May during the Smoke Down Prohibition X marijuana legalization at Independence Hall National Historic Park. He was arrested after leading a countdown and lighting a joint in an act of civil disobedience. Prosecutors had sought three years' probation with special conditions. Two other Smokedown activists, Chris Goldstein and Don Dezarn, who face similar charges, had their trials postponed until January 23.

Medical Marijuana

North Carolina Republican Congressman Says State Should Consider Medical Marijuana. US Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) has called on state officials to consider whether medical marijuana could help children who suffer from seizures. Jones' comments came after he was approached by the parents of several children with life-threatening diseases. Jones has a lifetime 85% approval score from the American Conservative Union.

Law Enforcement

Detroit Cops in Massive Anti-Drug Sweep. For the third time in recent weeks, Detroit are doing a massive sweep of a drug-battered neighborhood. More than 300 are sweeping a 1.2 square mile area, executing search warrants, and seeking probation and parole violators. Today's raid, Operation Mistletoe, will be followed by food donations to residents, cops said. Police reported 37 drug and other arrests by late afternoon.

International

Matthew Perry, Peter Hitchens in Fiery British TV Drug Debate. Actor Matthew Perry sparred with British anti-drug campaigner Peter Hitchens (brother of the late Christopher Hitchens) in a furious live TV debate on drug policy on BBC's Newsnight Monday night. Hitchens scoffed at the notion of addiction as a disease, while Perry touted the utility of drug courts. Click on the link for more details.

Fort Worth Man Killed in Drug Raid

A Fort Worth, Texas, resident was shot and killed by members of the Tarrant County Narcotics Unit as they executed a search warrant Friday night. The as yet unidentified victim becomes the 36th person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to WFAA TV News, citing a Fort Worth police captain, six members of the unit's Northeast Division arrived at the Tulip Tree Drive residence at about 8:45pm. When they broke down the door, the man inside was holding a shotgun and pointing it at officers.

One officer from nearby Euless fired once at the man, striking him at the chest. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

While police did not identify the man, they did say he was 30 years old.

Four other people inside the home were taken into custody, but it is not clear if they were actually arrested.

The Fort Worth Police Department is investigating the shooting.

Fort Worth, TX
United States

DEA Raiding Medical Marijuana Dispensaries in Denver! [FEATURE]

DEA and IRS agents backed up by Denver and other state and local law enforcement raided a number of Denver area medical marijuana dispensaries and grow operations Thursday. The US Attorney for Colorado's office confirmed the raids were taking place.

a Denver medical marijuana dispensary (not one of those raided Thursday) (wikipedia.org)
"The Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations, the Denver Police Department and state and local law enforcement are today executing lawfully obtained search warrants and seizure warrants," said Jeff Dorschner, spokesman for the US Attorney for Colorado's office in a Thursday statement

"Although we cannot at this time discuss the substance of this pending investigation, the operation under way today comports with the Department's recent guidance regarding marijuana enforcement matters," Dorschner added. "As this is an on-going investigation, no additional information will be made available," he said.

Dorschner was referring to an August 29 Justice Department memorandum to federal prosecutors that said the Obama administration would not interfere with marijuana legalization provided certain boundaries were not crossed. US Attorney for Colorado John Walsh laid them out in his own statement that same day.

"Of particular concern to the US Attorney's Office are cases involving marijuana trafficking directly or indirectly to children and young people; trafficking that involves violence or other federal criminal activity; trafficking conducted or financed by street gangs and drug cartels; cultivation of marijuana on Colorado's extensive state and federal public lands; and trafficking across state and international lines," Walsh explained.

The Thursday raids come less than two months before state-legal marijuana retail stores open for business on January 1.

The Denver Post reported that the number of sites hit was "about a dozen," while the alternative weekly Westword put the number at fewer than 20, although that number is tentative. Among businesses mentioned by "reliable sources within the scene" to Westword are VIP Wellness, Cherry Top Farms, marQaha, and Swiss Medical in Boulder. Westword printed a photo of police cars in the parking lot of marQaha, while the Post printed a photo of piles of uprooted marijuana plants lying in the snow outside Swiss Medical.

Westword also reported that the owner of Swiss Medical told it that the raid there was prompted by one person among multiple tenants using its space, but that the raiders seized all the plants belonging to anyone who had a grow there. That's similar to what happened at Cherry Top Farms in 2011, when federal raiders targeting one grower seized all the plants on the scene.

"We do not yet know the details of these latest federal actions, so it is too soon to say what inspired them," said Denver-based Marijuana Policy Project spokesman Mason Tvert. "The Justice Department said it would respect states' rights to regulate marijuana, and that it would not go after businesses as long as they are complying with state laws. We hope they are sticking to their word and not interfering with any state-regulated, law-abiding businesses."

Tvert emphasized that at this point he does not know whether any of the businesses struck are accused of violating state laws.

"Colorado has demonstrated that regulating marijuana works," Tvert said. "Those businesses that are in clear compliance with state laws are meeting the needs of the community and not causing problems. As a result, they have not faced much in the way of federal interference. If a business is suspected of violating state laws, they will likely face increased scrutiny, and if they are found to be in violation, they will likely face consequences. That is how our society treats alcohol, and that is how we expect to see marijuana treated."

Denver-based attorney and marijuana activist Rob Corry was less diplomatic. He told the Post the Justice Department was acting like a bully and targeting "mostly mom-and-pop businesses."

"That is true to form, the DOJ, behaving like the classic schoolyard bully picking on the little guy," he said. "The DOJ needs to explain in a logical fashion why they are picking and choosing, going after only some of these entities when every one of them selling marijuana is running afoul of the federal law."

Denver, CO
United States

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