Two weeks ago, a federally funded drug task force called WestNet seized 200 signatures in support of placing marijuana legalization on the November ballot in Washington State while conducting a raid on a legal medical marijuana dispensary.
Early in the morning, drug agents entered the home of the family that owns a medical marijuana dispensary known as the North End Club 420 in Tacoma. Once inside, agents inexplicably wreaked havoc on the family (emphasis mine):
Christine Casey, patient coordinator of North End Club 420, tells the Weekly that detectives from the West Sound Narcotics Enforcement Team (WestNet) who came to her house in Olalla (west of Vashon Island) handcuffed her 14-year-old son for two hours and put a gun to his head. They also told the kid to say goodbye to his dad, Guy Casey, because the dispensary owner was going to prison.
And as the detectives looked for cash to prove that the dispensary was illegally profiting from pot sales, Casey says, they confiscated $80 that her 9-year-old daughter had received from her family for a straight-A report card.
While WestNet claims they only seized the signatures because their search warrant authorized them to take any lists or ledgers found on the premises, Sensible Washington, the group behind the I-1068 legalization petition, claims the petition signatures are evidence of nothing more than democracy in action.
According to an update on Sensible Washington’s website, WestNet has agreed to release the petition signatures, but claims it can only find two pages. The North End Club 420 alleges there were 10 pages in the house before the raid.
This complete lack of discretion by a task force like WestNet has serious implications for the movement to legalize marijuana in Washington this fall.
Many are concerned the seizure of petition signatures will put a chilling affect on efforts to get marijuana legalization on the ballot. WestNet’s work is likely to intimidate legalization supporters who now stand only a few weeks away from the signature filing deadline in June.
It’s also an appalling affront to first amendment rights. The seizure of petition signatures in favor of legalizing marijuana by a federally-funded drug task force has effectively silenced the voices of hundreds of voters who signed the petition, only to have their signatures “lost” during the raid.
In support of the 200+ activists trying to let voters decide if marijuana should be legalized at the ballot box in November, we’ve started our own petition to WestNet, demanding they return all 200 signatures of the I-1068 petition and destroy any other copies they have made.
We’ll deliver the petition signatures to WestNet headquarters next week. Thanks for your support!