DEA raids: Search warrant targeted West Seattle dispensary too

November 16, 2011 at 4:12 pm | In West Seattle businesses, West Seattle news | 31 Comments

We’ve obtained a 37-page federal court document related to Tuesday’s DEA search at GAME Collective in White Center (one of a dozen-plus medical-marijuana establishments searched around Puget Sound) – and they reveal that federal authorities obtained search warrants for GAME Collective locations in West Seattle and North Seattle as well, along with the West Seattle home and car of its owner, and vehicles belonging to others associated with GAME.

The documents reiterate what statements from federal authorities said last night (as included in our Tuesday story), saying that they are not targeting “medical marijuana providers that comply with the letter and the spirit of existing state law,” though marijuana of any type is illegal under federal law. But they allege that five people associated with GAME Collective are suspected of federal crimes including conspiracy to distribute marijuana, distribution of marijuana , and unlawful possession with intent to distribute marijuana. The documents allege that constitutes a “drug-trafficking organization.”

The court documents also show a tie-in between the GAME investigation and the recent “Operation Center of Attention” raids, as well as detailing a series of undercover buys, and even mentioning a mysterious anonymous letter. The investigation of GAME Collective began in late July, at which time, an investigator writes:

Utilizing undercover officers and surveillance techniques, controlled purchases of marijuana were performed from individuals at the subject dispensary locations distributing controlled substances in the Western District of Washington. During these operations, the undercover officer was provided Officially Authorized Funds for the purchase of the marijuana. An electronic audio transmitter/recorder was placed with the undercover officer to monitor and record conversations between the undercover officer and suspects. The undercover officer would enter the establishment and provide an undercover identification as a qualified medical marijuana patient. After verifying the undercover officer’s eligibility as a medical-marijuana patient, the undercover was guided to an inner room and shown numerous varieties of dried marijuana, hashish, and other products such as candy and food items containing … THC — the psychoactive substance within marijuana. The undercover officer would purchase different varieties of dried marijuana and THC laden products which were then processed into evidence and sent to the DEA laboratory for testing and analysis for the presence of marijuana/THC.

The investigator goes on to mention (though not by name) Operation Center of Attention, the sweeping three-month investigation of White Center-area gang activity that recently resulted in raids and arrests. The documents say that ATF agents “had conducted controlled purchases of marijuana” from the White Center GAME Lounge during that investigation.

Also from the documents: GAME Collective’s business license is registered to its owner’s southwest West Seattle home, and “Greenpiece Alternative Medicine and Education (GAME) Center … is registered as a nonprofit organization.” And it is noted that the owner’s 2007 Mercedes was purchased with $34,000 in cash last April. (We are not identifying any of the suspects, as we do not thus far have any indication they have been indicted or otherwise charged.)

Among the background on GAME that is detailed in the documents is the armed robbery we covered at the West Seattle location last March.

(WSB photo from March 2011)
It lists items recovered during the aftermath, including “cannabis candies and … cookies” as well as marijuana and hashish.

A surveillance operation at the West Seattle GAME Collective location on July 28 is detailed. The investigator writes of seeing five vehicles arrive within 12 minutes, and seeing 13 people go in: “Approximately 10 to 20 minutes later, these individuals would exit The GAME Collective carrying paper bags on their way out that they did not have with them when they entered the establishment.” Most were described as in their 20s or 30s, and the investigator adds, “I did not observe anyone that required a wheelchair, crutches, or a walker to enter the GAME Collective. I know from personal experience, as well as observations of patients suffering from illnesses – such as certain kinds of cancer, AIDS, or Multiple Sclerosis – the physical toll such illnesses take on a person’s body as well as the side effects of their treatment. I know through experience and observations that hair loss, weight loss, lack of energy, difficulty in the ability to walk or to move limbs, or labored breathing are common and observable signs of such illnesses. During this surveillance, I did not observe anyone who entered or exited the GAME Collective exhibiting these signs.”

Next, the investigator writes of a similar surveillance operation at the North Seattle GAME Collective on August 9th.

And then, there are details about an anonymous letter received in mid-August alleging that GAME Collective was being used “as a collection point for Oregon and California grown marijuana and (shipped to a gang) in Chicago.” This letter claimed the enterprise was intending “to establish a large warehouse-sized indoor marijuana grow operation in Mount Vernon, Washington.”

The documents move on to late August, at which time the investigators’ “confidential informant” went into GAME Collective in White Center with $100 provided by agents, as well as audio/video recording equipment. Inside the documents say the informant was met by a man, asked for their medical-marijuana card and ID, shown “41 different varieties of marijuana” and “a lounge area where customers are encouraged to consume marijuana.” The informant allegedly was told “there is an afterhours party every Friday and Saturday … from 2 am to 6 am.” The informant paid $100 for 11 grams of marijuana and left.

The next day, the same informant was sent in for the same purpose. The documents note they “asked for a beer, but was told no beer was there.”

(Note: This has been a topic of community discussion at White Center meetings including the WC Community Safety Coalition – whether alcohol was being served at the GAME lounge.)

The day after that, the informant was sent in on a mission to “purchase marijuana and alcohol if possible,” the documents say. A purchase of marijuana and “five Swisher Sweet cigars” ensued, and then the informant “observed one of the customers of the GAME Collective was consuming a beer and asked for one” but was told “the beer was brought there by the customer and not provided by the GAME Collective.” The informant was told the after-hours party “costs $5 to enter and it’s BYOB – bring your own bottle.”

Also in late August, an ATF Field Officer working undercover went in, also wired, bought 10 grams of “marijuana identified as ‘Train Wreck’” for $120, and “observed at least 10 people at the bar … and most of them were consuming marijuana on the premises. Several of the patrons were observed … with small piles of marijuana on the bar in front of the customers and the marijuana was being shared between various patrons. (The agent) was offered marijuana on various occasions while he walked through the establishments observing the activities within the GAME Collective.”

When he went back the next day, the documents say, he was not asked for identification or his medical-marijuana card.

The narrative moves on to mid-September, when the undercover officer and informant went in to try to barter pipes and smoking devices for marijuana. The document says they were successful – that a GAME staffer “agreed to pay $100 for the pipes,” after being told by the agent “that he intended to sell the marijuana after receiving it for the pipes.” The $100 was received, and given back “for 10 grams of marijuana. (The staffer) offered (the agent) a lit marijuana cigarette … to sample. (The agent) simulated smoking the marijuana and then returned the marijuana cigarette …”

Then in late September, the documents say, another undercover agent was sent into the West Seattle GAME Collective with $2,000 for “a controlled purchase of three ounces of dried marijuana, ten grams of hashish, and two lollipops allegedly containing THC.” That same agent went to the North Seattle branch the same week with $750 and bought marijuana, hashish, and “two vials allegedly containing hash oil.”

Next date in the documents is November 3rd. The investigator who wrote the report says he walked by the White Center GAME Collective lounge and “noticed the odor of burning marijuana …”

From there, boilerplate follows, with generic language regarding why a search warrant would be sought, looking for evidence and possibly records of alleged illegal activity. What the searches yielded, would be the subject of future documents; there are no indications anyone was arrested in connection with this part of the DEA operation.

31 Comments

  1. You can’t always see handicaps…
    especially when they are connected to the “invisible” pain, dizziness and nausea for which marijuana is often prescribed.
    .
    I know that because i have been accosted more than once for parking legally in the handicapped zones by people who thought i didn’t look disabled enough.
    .
    i don’t buy marijuana even though my doc has offered it as an option for pain control…
    but if i did… depending on the day… an informant observing me may not think I had a legitimate pain issue requiring marijuana either…
    .
    and i am not convinced that the variety of choices including edibles marks a dispensary as illegal…
    .
    but i am very bothered by the undercover agent’s observations of illegal activity observed in the smoking lounge … and the trading of marijuana for resale

    Comment by JoB — 5:28 pm November 16, 2011 #

  2. There was an interesting piece on KUOW today regarding these raids and how some from the marijuana dispensary community were viewing these raids in a positive light. That the those that were raided weren’t follow the very light criteria set before them and deserved to be shut down.

    Comment by MyEye — 5:29 pm November 16, 2011 #

  3. I met one of the owners once, many years ago, through a coworker. I’ll just say I’m not surprised.

    Also curious about the GAME collective location. Wasn’t that the one where another business owner had come in and cleaned up the joint, then was suddenly evicted? Wonder if that landlord was offered more rent. It’d be interesting to know, anyway.

    Comment by A — 5:42 pm November 16, 2011 #

  4. The real issue is not cannabis prohibition but it is states rights, personal freedom and civil liberties. Wickard v. Filburn, 317 U.S. 111 (1942), was a U.S. Supreme Court decision that recognized the power of the federal government to regulate economic activity. This decision gave the federal government unlimited powers and the chief justice at the time left the restraint of this power up to the political process rather than the judicial process. I would argue that this very point is the potential downfall of the federal governments unlimited powers to regulate commerce as the federal government has repeatedly abused the powers that it was supposed to at least effect some restraint in using. This decision was the base of Gonzales v. Raich and the central issue defining the balance of power between the federal government and the states (and over its people). Our federal government is too big, spends too much, taxes too much and continually flaunts its power not only internationally but in the face of its own people. If there was one thing that would better our economically failing, federally overbearing country it would be to re-write Article I, Section 8, Clause 3 of the constitution which currently simply reads “To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;” and shorten it to “To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and with the Indian Tribes;”.
    Please sign my petition to change the Commerce Clause to allow for States Rights first:

    Comment by Curt Larson — 5:49 pm November 16, 2011 #

  5. “(The agent) simulated smoking the marijuana and then returned the marijuana cigarette …”?”
    -
    Are they looking for undercover volunteers?

    Comment by Cottonmouth Fed — 5:58 pm November 16, 2011 #

  6. We are so backwards.

    Comment by velo_nut — 6:03 pm November 16, 2011 #

  7. millions of tax dollars well spent. How many billion more until we “win”?

    Comment by Marcus M — 6:39 pm November 16, 2011 #

  8. Why are some people here defending a REAL Drug house…They fooled you. There is nothing wrong with a Marajuana dispensary, but these guys were dealing and being wanna be drug lord…dont you get it? They abused thier authority to do the right thing and they went way too far to get rich quick.

    Comment by Joe — 6:56 pm November 16, 2011 #

  9. A lounge area? To smoke? Indoors? Wow, I thought that alone was illegal! Unless that only applies to tobacco, I guess…

    Comment by Tbone — 7:17 pm November 16, 2011 #

  10. 1. I am all for legalization of pot. I support the premise of I-502 which legalizes taxes and regulates pot for everyone over 21.
    2. I do not believe that people should be arrested for possessing or growing their own pot.
    3. I believe that real medical marijuana patients should never have their access to medical marijuana impeded in any way.
    4. I believe that current Washington MM laws don’t necessarily address all the issues about getting real patients pot while staying within the law as currently adopted.
    5. I think the government should not waste their limited resources on marijuana issues.

    That being said, this updated story demonstrates quite succinctly what kind of idiotic greed heads give a bad name to the whole movement to legalize marijuana and industrial hemp. These clowns deserve to go to jail for their twisted abuse of our much needed medical marijuana law. They should go to jail for tax evasion too. They help no one but themselves…

    “State laws of compassion were never intended to protect brash criminal conduct that masquerades as medical treatment,” U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan said in a statement.

    Special Agent in Charge Matthew Barnes of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which led the Seattle raids, said they targeted those who cultivated and sold marijuana while exploiting state law “to satisfy their own personal greed.”

    A search-warrant affidavit for dispensary locations — and for homes where marijuana was being grown — accused both dispensaries of drug dealing and money laundering.

    In federal court documents accompanying the search warrants, officers described a confidential informant buying 5 pounds of marijuana for $11,000 from the Seattle Cannabis Co-op.

    The co-owner of Seattle Cross, according to an affidavit, posted a photo on his Facebook page showing three duffel bags of cash and a caption, “This gonna take all night to count … lol.” Deposits in the Seattle Cross bank account totaled $850,979 in a year.

    See what I mean???????

    Comment by justme — 7:20 pm November 16, 2011 #

  11. Ok that’s one – what about the raid on the 13 others?

    Comment by Marcus M — 8:40 pm November 16, 2011 #

  12. I’m with justme above. When I first read this I was really annoyed at the section where the cop plays doctor and “diagnoses” people walking in and out of the dispensary based on his visual judgement from a distance. It sounds like common sense that “really sick people should look really sick” but unless that cop’s a doctor, that opinion is beyond irrelevant.

    But it looks more and more like these were legit raids, targeting people who were clearly abusing a very fragile legal situation for personal gain. If that’s true, I’m pretty impressed that the DEA was able to target these guys and avoid the temptation to roll all over every little dispensary they could. I’m cautiously optimistic that this was the right thing to do.

    Comment by Thomas — 8:54 pm November 16, 2011 #

  13. Joe nailed it. I’m for making pot legal and taxing the heck out of it. I’m not for cheaters! Agree with you too just me.

    Comment by Dunno — 8:57 pm November 16, 2011 #

  14. If it was such a problem let our local and state agencies deal with it. I personally don’t want the self righteous DEA to meddle with laws which should be the realm of the state and county.

    Comment by Brian — 9:24 pm November 16, 2011 #

  15. I know the owner and some of the employees at the G.A.M.E. Lounge in White center thru a friend of mine that used to work there. Believe me if you knew the bad apples there, even a little, you would know they are shady criminals. Especially the heavy set curly haired woman, which I wont mention her name. OMG! You have no idea, bad, bad news! I am happy that the bad apples were targeted, and the ones that follow the rules were not. This was a long time coming. HA HA!!!!! I have been waiting for this moment to happen to these criminals for months now. Hope the cops bust the heavy set, curly haired woman’s escort service next. I can only hope.

    Comment by oh well — 10:13 pm November 16, 2011 #

  16. Really? With all the horrible crap going on in the world right now, the potheads and pothead apologists spend time and energy making sure there’s more pot (and therefore more stupid) in the world? This is what you worry about? This is what prompts you to Stand Up Against Your Oppressive Government? Pathetic. And you’re probably the same people who made sure the State got out of the liquor business so you can get your Jack Daniels on a Sunday afternoon at Costco….’cause it’s your god-given RIGHT, man…

    Comment by Kayleigh — 6:07 am November 17, 2011 #

  17. Kayleigh,

    It’s hard to know exactly what you’re upset about, given your post, but I can assure you that those of us who consider the prohibition of marijuana use by adults to be an inefficient and immoral government overreach are certainly not attempting to ensure “more stupid” in the world. Others, it seems, have seen to that.

    Comment by MCKRUSH — 6:23 am November 17, 2011 #

  18. One thing apparently not uncovered at the co-op: any violent behavior or property crime.

    Thanks for protecting us from ourselves, DEA!

    Comment by Aaron — 7:34 am November 17, 2011 #

  19. Mckrush, let me clarify: although I’m sure it’s not the case when you and your buddies use ’cause you’re a special snowflake; however, a lot of people act really stupid when they use. Like I have to ask the barista to make my drink three times because she keeps doing it wrong, and I have to cover for people at work who do stupid things or waltz in 3 hours late, and I risk hitting you when you drive 30 MPH on the freeway. And I have to pay your increased medical costs. “Harmless” my butt. That’s what I mean by increasing “the stupid.” But by all means, stay a 14-year-old and focus on your rights and victimization by the government. That’ll get you far.

    Comment by Kayleigh — 7:47 am November 17, 2011 #

  20. I’m no fan of big government, but if you see the ads in magazines like the Stranger for these places I’m not surprised either. I read that one of the owners (not sure if it was this one) had a picture of him on his Facebook showing a bunch of cash and saying it was going to take him all night to count it.

    Comment by M — 7:59 am November 17, 2011 #

  21. Thank you Kayleigh!!!!

    Comment by Dick — 8:03 am November 17, 2011 #

  22. It’s a sad day when people are called “a 14 year old” for focusing on their rights and calling out the government on violating those rights. It is our responsibility to question the decisions of government and use of our hard earned tax dollars.

    Comment by Tuesday — 9:00 am November 17, 2011 #

  23. All bad baristas, slack co-workers, and people that drive 30 mph are due to them being potheads. Duly noted, Kayleigh. I like your use of calling people snowflakes and stupid – it really strengthens your point.

    Comment by cwit — 9:52 am November 17, 2011 #

  24. Kayleigh, please demonstrate empirically an increase in cost (or utilization) of medical services that is caused by (or even correlated with) marijuana use. Does it make sense to arrest and prosecute users so that tax payers can subsidize their medical AND housing expenses? To say nothing of the lives ruined in the process. I guess I should state that I perceive incarceration of non-violent offenders to generally be a higher impact to society than, say, having to change lanes or ask for a specialty coffee do-over. But then, I also perceive covering for incompetent co-workers to be a textbook example of “the stupid.”

    Comment by jno — 10:48 am November 17, 2011 #

  25. It’s disturbing that this “business” is in my neighborhood. Some of us have kids…

    Comment by DW — 11:26 am November 17, 2011 #

  26. Kayleigh, please do some better research. How much impact does pot have on public safety as opposed to, say, alcohol?

    Comment by norealopinion — 12:29 pm November 17, 2011 #

  27. I’ve read the responses and I just have to say that, here is proof that Marijuana does not cause “Stupid” because there’s just as many stupid people who don’t consume MJ. As a provider for a relative, sometimes I pick up their Med. MJ because they don’t drive or just not up to getting it themselves. It’s almost necessary to use various dispensaries because they don’t all carry the same kinds products. The point is, I don’t look ill when I pick up his meds. A provider does need to present a card that shows the patient they are providing for. The GAME always checked mine and I didn’t think there was a problem with people medicating at the Lounge/bar, any more than when people sit and “medicate” at the Pogie at 10:00 in the morning until 2:00am. Or is alcohol a recreational drug? Hmmm, I struggle with the real issue here; Is it that MJ is mind altering? Because alcohol is proven to be much more mind altering, even destructive; Is it because it’s a controlled substance? Then take control, regulate and tax it like other drugs, including alcohol. Is it because people want to also use it for recreation? Why do bars exist? How would people cope and what would they do on the weekend if there were no alcohol? In general our antics are screwy and none of it really makes sense, right or wrong has nothing to do with our politics. It’s time to stop creating social and economic problems for the sake of supporting self righteous interests and to control the personal choices other adults make. Drugs are drugs no matter how you justify them (pharmaceutical or not), therefore, “reasonable” regulation and accountability should be applied to everything. Quit denying that most everyone in American society has a vice or taking a drug as medicine.

    Comment by GoGreen — 12:47 pm November 17, 2011 #

  28. “Simulated”… LMAO

    Comment by DaveB — 1:52 pm November 17, 2011 #

  29. I met the owner several times. The premise of this being a compassionate not for profit enterprise is a joke. Drug dealing under the guise of medical marijuana is shameful.

    Comment by otto — 2:33 pm November 17, 2011 #

  30. I am loving Kayleigh’s arguments on this thread. They would be really amusing if they weren’t so woefully head shakingly sad. The G.A.M.E. people were up to no good and the resulting uptick in sketchiness is a direct result of their business practices. I am glad the D.E.A. moved in on them. It’s already a fragile line to walk, and they flagrantly ran right over it. I think the cops/DEA need to stick to facts, not opinions when reporting their activities.

    Comment by Amanda — 3:20 pm November 17, 2011 #

  31. I love how most of the people on this forum have NO idea what the hell they’re talking about, especially little miss Kayleigh, who, I am to assume, has never touched Marijuana in her life, and has no idea what it is like to be under the influence of the substance. Well let me explain it to you, you poor, ignorant, uneducated little girl: Marijuana is not like alcohol, nor is it like any other drug in the world. That is why scientists STILL have much to learn about it, after thousands of years of use, and hundreds of years of research. It is a mind altering substance, but anyone who ever says “Sorry, I had NO IDEA I was doing that, I had smoked weed earlier” either smoked WAY WAY too much, which 99.9% of marijuana users don’t do, or is lying. I usually smoke a couple bowls of high-quality medical marijuana after work, and am capable of functioning just fine: going to the store for groceries, going out to dinner, driving home (without going “30 miles per hour”, I don’t know ANY marijuana user who drives that slow, I usually stay in the 65-68 MPH range on the freeway mind you), etc.

    Long story short, medical marijuana relieves my pain, and while it DOES put me in an altered state of mind, it is in no way harmful and does not impair my reflexes, depth perception, judgment, etc. in the way that totally legal drugs, say ALCOHOL or PERCOCET or VICODIN do. Anyone who says otherwise is ignorant, and has no idea what they’re talking about, or the person in question has smoked WAY too much, like an ounce at a time. Any substance that is used too heavily will be harmful, hell, you can overdose on Dayquil for Christ’s sake, doesn’t mean it should be illegal.

    I am a PROUD Medical Marijuana patient, and I can tell you that by looking at me, you wouldn’t think there’s a damn thing wrong with me… until you see me trying to move the mats and mop the floors in the backroom at work (Starbucks), when I am in obvious pain, and very often on the verge of tears because of the severe muscle spasms in my shoulders and back.

    First of all, you can’t judge a book by its cover, and MANY of the qualifying medical conditions are damn near impossible to see from the outside, so the agent in question OBVIOUSLY didn’t know his stuff. Second of all, how do you “simulate” smoking a joint without actually smoking it? It’s pretty easy to tell if someone is faking, so either the story is covering for the agent who actually had to smoke the marijuana to keep his cover, or the person who was working at GAME that day is an imbecile and deserved to be busted by the feds.

    I don’t agree with drug trafficking, and I think that dispensaries/collectives should abide by the strict guidelines set (no redistribution, no more than 24 oz. at a time, patients must have WA state I.D. and their medical marijuana authorization on them at all times, etc.). However, GAME is not the typical of dispensaries, and DEFINITELY not the typical of medical marijuana patients or providers.

    Comment by Zac — 1:01 pm November 18, 2011 #

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