Martin Martinez at Lifevine's office after the Seattle Police Department searched the premises, knocked a wall down, and unlawfully took 12 ounces of legal medical marijuana. Photo by Courtney Blethen of the Seattle Times
Surprisingly, I actually heard back from the King County Prosecutor's Office after I sent an email July 15 protesting their search earlier that day of Martin Martinez's Lifevine/Cascadia NORML offices and the harassment of medical marijuana patients.
While the reply email is inevitably quite political in its use of doublespeak ("We have concluded the Seattle Police Department acted appropriately"), it's encouraging to see that it also acknowledges that Martin and his group were well within Washington's medical marijuana law.
It is, of course, highly questionable for the prosecutor's office to conclude that the SPD "acted appropriately" when they were fully informed -- before conducting the raid, and during the course of the raid -- by both Martinez and his lawyers, that Martin was a legal medical marijuana patient. How does the mere smell of (legal) pot make it "appropriate" to raid a medical marijuana patient's office, knock his wall down in search of nonexistent plants, and steal his medicine? That doesn't sound very "appropriate" to me.
That's the good news, or at least as good as it gets in the email from the prosecutor's office, reproduced below.
The bad news is:
"One part of state law prohibits the possession of marijuana while another part authorizes possession and use for medical purposes. Law enforcement officers and prosecuting attorneys are entrusted to interpret and enforce both laws on a case-by-case basis."
Which is wrong. The police acted unlawfully, not "appropriately." According to the law, Senate Bill ESSB 6032, which passed in April 2007 and went into effect July 22, 2007:
A local or state law enforcement officer stopping a person lawfully possessing medical marijuana:
• Can document the amount
• Can take a sample for testing
• Cannot seize the marijuana
• Cannot be held civilly liable for not seizing the marijuana.
"They are supposed to take photos and samples and carry on the investigation without seizing the medicine," Martinez told me today. "But the fact is, the officers on the scene did not make the call. That call actually came from an assistant DA because it was after 5 PM and the boss, Dan Satterberg, was unavailable."
This is completely disingenuous on their part, and of course it leaves the door open to further harassment and intimidation of legal medical marijuana patients whenever they want, as they see fit. To call the actions of the police "appropriate" is especially dishonest, as well as legally incorrect. They had no authority, no legal right, to confiscate Martin's medicine.
It is up to us in the medical marijuana community to call them on this nonsense, each and every time they pull it, exactly as we called them on it when they did it this time, to Martinez and his Lifevine group.
Martinez said one officer for some reason became convinced that he was growing a garden in a secret room, so the cop ripped down part of a wall. No plants were found. Martinez wasn't arrested. No charges have been filed. "I'm just hopping mad," attorney Douglas Hiatt told the Seattle Times. Hiatt arrived at the office during the search and called a deputy prosecutor to try to talk her out of executing the warrant. "It's stupid and was totally preventable," he said.
While the police returned Lifevine's patient records, they still haven't given Martin back his 12 ounces of medicine -- which the law specifically prohibits them from taking in the first place. I'm still wondering exactly what part of this that the Prosecutor's office and the Seattle Police Department don't understand.
The police need to give Martin Martinez his medicine back. This man, David Lucas of Huntington Beach, California, in April got his 31.8 grams medical pot back after the California Supreme Court Court declined to review an appellate court ruling, which ordered Garden Grove police to return seized medical marijuana to another patient. This means that the lower court ruling stands and is valid. Lucas posed for photographer Eugene Garcia of the Orange County Register with his pipe and marijuana.
Anyway, here's the email I received today from the prosecutor's office. Mr. Satterberg evidently delegated the task of dealing with me to Deputy Chief of Staff Ian Goodhew.
------ Forwarded Message
From: "Goodhew, Ian" Ian.Goodhew@kingcounty.gov
Date: Sun, 20 Jul 2008 15:38:01 -0700
Subject: FW: Why Are You Wasting Our Money?
Dear Mr. Elliot [sic],
Thank you for contacting the King County Prosecutor's Office regarding the recent service of a search warrant on a medical marijuana storefront in the University District of Seattle. We appreciate hearing from you on this important matter.
We have reviewed the results of the Seattle Police investigation of the storefront. We have concluded that the Seattle Police Department acted appropriately in response to citizen complaints about the strong odor of marijuana coming from a commercial space next door. They have conducted a thorough investigation for our review.
We have decided that no criminal charges should be brought against the person renting that commercial space. The Seattle Police Department is returning documents and a computer that were taken in the service of the search warrant. Police gathered these items because they reasonably believed that they showed an effort to distribute marijuana in violation of state law.
We are satisfied that the individual in question is authorized to possess marijuana for medical purposes under Washington State law, and that the amount in his possession was arguably within the "60 day supply" permitted by statute.
Although the exact definition of a 60-day personal use amount is not defined by statute, the Washington State Department of Health is currently working on a specific definition. The amount currently being considered is 24 ounces of cultivated marijuana, six mature plants and 18 immature plants.
The individual responsible for the storefront and his supporters assert that this operation was a collection of patients working together to help other patients access marijuana. Legal access to marijuana is one area where the state law fails to provide helpful guidelines. There is no mechanism for authorized patients to get marijuana without some illegal transaction occurring up the chain of delivery beyond the patient and their provider. Selling or otherwise dispensing marijuana is not allowed under the law.
One part of state law prohibits the possession of marijuana while another part authorizes possession and use for medical purposes. Law enforcement officers and prosecuting attorneys are entrusted to interpret and enforce both laws on a case-by-case basis. We will continue to do so, with the hope that some clarity can be brought to the law in the future.
Thank you again for contacting the King County Prosecutor's Office regarding this important issue.
King County Prosecutor's Office
Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske
Telephone: (206) 684-5577
Fax: (206) 684-5525
From: Steve Elliott firstname.lastname@example.org
Sent: Tuesday, July 15, 2008 9:51 PM
To: Satterberg, Dan email@example.com
Subject: Why Are You Wasting Our Money?
I'm sitting here asking myself why you see fit to waste taxpayers' money on raiding, harassing and intimidating medical marijuana patients and providers.
Exactly how does the public benefit by your going after sick and dying people and those who care for them?
This is a horrible waste of time and resources, and is incredibly barbaric as well.
IT'S TIME TO TAKE ACTION
Email and call:
• Dan Satterberg (206-296-9067)
• Ian Goodhew (206-296-9064)
The following two names are most important to contact!:
• Police Attorney Leo Poort (206-233-5141)
• Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske (206-684-5577)
• Call the King County Omsbudsman's office to file a complaint
Let them know that they should return Martin Martinez's medicine NOW, and that the police legally weren't supposed to take it in the first place.
"You are precisely as big as what you love and precisely as small as what you allow to annoy you."
~ Robert Anton Wilson