On Tuesday, a medical marijuana grower in Wallingford named Roger Spohn was raided by what appeared to be four FBI agents. He soon realized that the agents were actually robbers and called the police. When the police arrived, however, they confiscated most of his plants. Spohn is a registered medical marijuana patient who was maintaining a grow for multiple patients, something which is not allowed by state law but in recent years has been overlooked in King County according to attorney Douglas Hiatt.
When Washington’s medical marijuana law was being revised in 2008, this was one of the major concerns from the patient community. At the time, I’d spoken with individuals who had grown for patients who were either too ill or too frail to grow for themselves. Some of these folks were known by law enforcement to be growing for multiple patients, but were left alone because they weren’t selling to non-patients. Many were worried that codifying a specific plant limit would lead to situations like the one that happened on Tuesday. They were right. After the police came to his house, Spohn was left with only the state-mandated limit of 15 plants (out of the nearly 200 he’d been growing).
At this point, I can’t say for sure whether or not Spohn was diverting any of his grow output to non-patients, but I’ve known Douglas Hiatt long enough that I’d be surprised if he stood up for a grower who was doing that. Most growers are patients themselves and worry greatly about going to jail. And Spohn hasn’t been charged with anything, meaning that the police don’t have any evidence that Spohn was diverting any of his supply. Hopefully, SPD is more concerned with finding the robbers who are not only guilty of breaking and entering and theft, but also of impersonating law enforcement.
If the police are unable to prove that Spohn wasn’t just growing for authorized patients in this state, SPD should return his plants. That’s not a legal judgement on my part, it’s a pragmatic one. Medical marijuana patients who were relying on Spohn for their medicine are now going to have to find alternative avenues. For a city that is so concerned with street dealers and gang violence, this was an incredibly short-sighted move by those officers. They just gave some very brazen criminals a larger customer base along with their stolen goods. To believe that that move couldn’t come back to bite SPD in the ass is wishful thinking.
The last time we had an incident with SPD confiscating medicine from an authorized patient, the DEA eventually got involved and the marijuana was never returned. Unfortunately, because Spohn was technically in violation of state law, even Obama’s DEA could get involved and the same outcome may transpire. If that happens, it will be another illustration of how last year’s attempt to improve our state’s medical marijuana law to protect patients was a failure.