At least 14 outlets in three western Washington counties were shut down by the Drug Enforcement Administration as part of the Obama administration's crackdown in states that allow the use of marijuana for so-called medical purposes.
U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan said in a written statement that the dispensaries targeted by the DEA were actually commercial operations that allegedly sold large volumes of pot and also laundered money.
"State laws of compassion were never intended to protect brash criminal conduct that masquerades as medical treatment," said Durkan, who said the federal government was not out to "prosecute truly ill people or their doctors."
Durkan said the dispensaries allegedly also sold marijuana to people who were not truly sick or operated within school zones. "The activities today and the ongoing investigations are targeted actions consistent with Department of Justice policy and guidelines," she said. "Our job is to enforce federal criminal laws."
The Seattle Times said medical marijuana advocates had expected the raids. Although medical marijuana was approved by Washington voters in 1998, Gov. Chris Gregoire vetoed legalization in May that would have legalized and regulated dispensaries, which eliminated most of the legal protection the shops once enjoyed.
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