Police: Medical marijuana co-ops had too much pot, too many members

BELLINGHAM – Police raids on three Bellingham medical marijuana cooperatives revealed they had far more marijuana – and hundreds more members – than is allowed under state law, according to police. Search warrants were carried out Thursday afternoon, March 15, at three cooperatives acting outside of state guidelines, said Bellingham police spokesman Mark Young. Five people associated with the co-ops were arrested. “This has nothing to do with medical marijuana,” Young said. “This is about illegal drug operations.” Cooperatives can have no more than 41/2 pounds of pot, according to a state law passed in July 2011.

Police said they seized:

• 15 pounds of marijuana from The Northern Cross, 1311 Cornwall Ave.;

• 11 pounds of marijuana from The Joint Cooperative, 1311 11th St.;

• 7 pounds of marijuana from KGB Collective, 1130 Finnegan Ave.

Employees at the Northern Cross told police they had more than 3,000 members, Young said, while the two other cooperatives had hundreds of members. State law says medical marijuana co-ops are allowed to have up to 10 members. At two locations in Skagit County, police and drug task force officers found more than 300 marijuana plants and “dozens of weapons,” including a semi-automatic rifle with a scope and laser, handguns, rifles and a shotgun, Young said. “I’ve been at a lot of drug raids, and the one constant is guns,” he said. “This one was no different.” Young declined to say how police established the grow operations and the co-ops were connected. Jason Crawford, assistant manager of Northern Cross, said he wasn’t “100 percent sure” where his cooperative’s marijuana came from. When asked about the firearms found in the Skagit raids, he said, “They’re probably just hunters that keep a lot of guns.” Crawford said his understanding was that each member of the co-op was allowed to have about 11/2 pounds per member.

He said he hadn’t heard of the 41/2 pounds rule. Crawford was not arrested during the raids, but the owner of Northern Cross, Martin O. Nickerson, was being held in Whatcom County Jail in lieu of $15,000 bail. Crawford expected him to be bailed out by Friday evening. The city started revoking business registrations for medical marijuana dispensaries and co-ops in December 2011. Without those registrations, the businesses were operating in violation of municipal code. Police sent letters to all three medical marijuana collectives March 9, ordering them to cease operations because they were engaging in criminal activity. The collectives remained open after the letters, and Nickerson and the owner of The Joint were planning to fight the city’s closure request. Because Friday was a closure/furlough day for Whatcom County offices, Seattle attorney Hilary Bricken was unable to file for a temporary restraining order seeking to keep the businesses open.

She said she plans to request the order first thing Monday. The timing of the raids “had nothing to do with the temporary restraining order,” Young said. “It had to do with people selling marijuana illegally, outside of the guidelines.” Bricken, who is representing Northern Cross, said the city has not explicitly laid out its code on medical marijuana, leading to a hazy legal situation for cooperatives. She’s also representing Star Buds, another co-op she said was shut down during the raids. Young could only confirm that three co-ops were busted. The following people were arrested in connection with the raids: Saroj Sidhu, Nickerson, Dennis M. Crowley, Heather M. Kimber and Jennifer M. Detmering. All five were charged with possession of marijuana with intent to deliver. Young declined to comment on police investigations of other cooperatives in the city.

via : thenewstribune

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