Unexpected DEA raids in Seattle, Washington took marijuana dispensaries by surprise Wednesday as federal agents conducted a series of coordinated ambushes on weed vendors despite the fact that the state legalized pot last November. Could this be the sign of an impending federal crackdown on increasingly defiant state marijuana laws?
The DEA raids in Seattle, Washington were confirmed by DEA spokesperson Jodie Underwood, who told The Associated Press that search warrants were all executed by Wednesday evening. Underwood offered no further detail about the raids.
Local television station KIRO 7 reported that the DEA raids in Seattle, Wash. followed a two-year investigation by the federal drug enforcement agency, and listed four of the dispensaries visited by the DEA.
But the DEA raids didn't shut the Seattle dispensaries down. One of the dispensaries targeted by the raids, Bayside Gardens, confirmed the DEA operation on its Facebook page with a defiant assurance that it will remain open for business even if, as the dispensary implied, its marijuana had been confiscated.
"We are still open! We may not have meds at the moment but we are still open!" the post read. "They will not keep us down Thank You everyone for ALL of you support and love. We have no Meds, but we still have our dignity and we aren't going anywhere [all sic]."
The DEA raids were "humiliating" for dispensary employees, said Bayside worker Casey Lee, who said that around seven vehicles participated in the DEA raid Wednesday morning. The agents confiscated documents as well as around $2,500 worth of medical marijuana.
Leif O'Leary, a medical marijuana patient at Seattle Cross dispensary, which was also targeted by the DEA raids in Seattle, told KING 5 News he was confused by the federal law enforcement agency's interest in his small, local supplier.
"You can't tell me there isn't bigger fish to fry," O'Leary said, "especially now that recreational marijuana is legal [in Washington]. It is just to me inconceivable that this is still happening."
Washington State and Colorado are the only two states in the United States where recreational marijuana use has been legalized by state law, and two of 18 states that allow medical marijuana. These state laws, however, are in direct conflict with federal laws which still ban marijuana across the board.
More DEA raids could be in store, as the DEA has stated in no uncertain terms that it will uphold federal law. The agency reinforced its stance after the passage of Washington and Colorado's 2012 legalization acts.
"The Drug Enforcement Administration's enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act remains unchanged," said the DEA in a press statement at the time. "In enacting the Controlled Substances Act, Congress determined that marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance. The Department of Justice is reviewing the ballot initiatives and we have no additional comment at this time."
What do you think? Is this the beginning of a federal crackdown on states that have legalized marijuana? How should states respond? Sound off in the comments section below.