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Feds Raid Marijuana Operations Across State

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Federal agents executed 26 criminal search warrants at medical marijuana operations across Montana last week — including raids in Whitefish, Columbia Falls, Kalispell and Olney. Some warrants targeted $4.2 million at lending institutions in Bozeman, Helena and Kalispell.

No charges were filed immediately following the March 14 raids, but owners of the businesses reported federal agents seized marijuana plants, computers and cell phones, and in some instances froze bank accounts.

Michael Cotter, U.S. District Attorney for Montana, said in a March 15 press release that the search warrants were carried out “where there is probable cause that the premises were involved in illegal and large-scale trafficking of marijuana.”

The statewide sweep was the culmination of an 18-month long multi-agency investigation, Cotter said.

“When criminal networks violate federal laws, those involved will be prosecuted,” he said.

According to Cotter, marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug under federal law, which means it has a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the U.S., and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision.

Federal law, however, conflicts with Montana’s medical marijuana law, which allows a qualified patient or a caregiver to possess up to six plants and one ounce of useable marijuana.

Cotter addressed this issue by saying, “Individuals with illnesses who are in clear and unambiguous compliance with state law are not the focus of this investigation.”

“The policies of (the Justice Department) have not changed,” Cotter told lawyers at a State Bar meeting on March 18. “When the attorney general visited here in February, he stated illegal sale of marijuana under the guise of medical marijuana will be prosecuted. That is the policy.”

Federal agents searched medical marijuana businesses in Belgrade, Big Sky, Billings, Bozeman, Columbia Falls, Great Falls, Helena, Kalispell, Miles City, Missoula, Olney and Whitefish.

Federal agencies participating in the raids included the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Homeland Security Investigations, IRS, Bureau of Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Environmental Protection Agency’s Criminal Investigation Division, U.S. Customs, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration. They were assisted locally by the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office and Kalispell Police.

The federal warrants alleged that the raided operations were involved in several violations of federal law, including manufacture of marijuana with intent to distribute; distribution of marijuana; conspiracy to manufacture and distribute marijuana; and structuring transactions to evade currency reporting requirements.

In the Flathead, agents searched a building on Jellison Road in Columbia Falls occupied by Four Seasons Gardening and Good Medicine Providers. Another Columbia Falls provider, Northern Lights Medical, was also named in the federal warrants. Agents were authorized to seize $653,550 in a Glacier Bank account in Kalispell belonging to Four Seasons Gardening.

Dan Decker, a marijuana caregiver in the Flathead, said the raids had “essentially shut down every medical marijuana dispensary.” Decker, who said he doesn’t operate a dispensary and serves a few patients, noted that the owners of some of the raided businesses had testified in Helena against a bill to repeal the state’s Medical Marijuana Act. Supporters of the Act gathered in downtown Kalispell on March 16 to protest the raids.

In Helena, Montana Cannabis co-owner Christopher Williams said four of his company’s facilities were raided. Federal agents seized computers, data storage, products and 1,680 plants at the company’s greenhouse near Helena.

About 15 workers were inside the Montana Cannabis facility west of Helena when federal agents entered in with guns drawn. The workers were handcuffed and detained as the search was carried out, with more than 1,600 plants seized. The 480 flowering plants seized were estimated to be worth about $456,000.

An affidavit that accompanied the warrant served on Montana Cannabis revealed that federal agents had been investigating one of Williams’ partners, Richard Flor, since 2007 and purchased marijuana from Flor on at least two occasions.

The affidavit cited interviews with former employees at Montana Cannabis who claimed the company purchased medical marijuana from another provider, Big Sky Patient Care, for several weeks in 2010 after Montana Cannabis’ main greenhouse was vandalized.

News Hawk- Jacob Husky 420 MAGAZINE
Source: flatheadnewsgroup.com
Author: Whitefish Pilot
Contact: Contact Us
Copyright: Hagadone Corporation
Website: Feds raid marijuana operations across state
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