The line between lawful medical marijuana grower and potential narcotics trafficker just got a little hazier in Montana. After an 18 month investigation of statewide marijuana trafficking, the U. S. government raided facilities throughout the state.
Don't grow this in Montana - you could soon be thrown into jail!
Federal prosecutors claimed that the state’s medical marijuana law, passed in 2003 and similar to those in 15 other states and the District of Columbia, is being used to facilitate large-scale drug trafficking.
But according to Montana Cannabis co-owner Chris Williams, the 1,700 plants in his facility seized by federal agents provide legitimate medicine to around 300 registered patients. Montana law allows licensed growers to cultivate six plants for each patient. By that standard, Williams’ facility is operating within the state law.
Michael Cotter, U. S. Attorney for Montana rejected that idea saying the raids were conducted, “where there is probable cause that the premises were involved in illegal and large-scale trafficking of marijuana."
Allegations that these facilities are part of a larger illegal narcotics organization drew condemnation from medical marijuana advocates who accused the government of targeting legal growers and distributors despite facilities operating under the statute legalizing the plant for medical use.
“When criminal networks violate federal laws, those involved will be prosecuted," Cotter said.
In addition to the raids, civil seizure warrants were issued for three banks in Bozeman, Helena and Kalispell, claiming as much as $4 million may be connected to the alleged drug trade.
Currently, Federal law classifies Marijuana as a Schedule 1 controlled substance along with heroin, LSD, and PCP. However, in 2009, President Barack Obama said in a statement that his administration would no longer prosecute patients using medical marijuana or the dispensaries supplying them the plant in states in which the people voted to legalize marijuana for medical use. Attorney General Eric Holder echoed the President’s statement that same year saying federal agents would only pursue medical marijuana distributors “who violate both federal and state law."
Justice Department spokesperson Tracy Schmaler said the investigation in Montana did not conflict with the stance at the White House.
Not that long term marijuana users actually have to undergo substance abuse treatment, but they can take this path if they so choose.
In total, 26 search warrants were executed throughout the Big Sky state.