UPDATE October 28, 2010 -- The Stranger has obtained the search warrant in the alarming medical cannabis raid executed by Seattle police on Monday night. It shows that this frightening show of force in response to a cannabis complaint was predicated upon a narcotics officer smelling cannabis outside an apartment door and seeing a fan in a window. Furthermore, the warrant is signed by the same King County narcotics prosecutor that signed off on the 2008 Lifevine raid in the University District.
The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office recommended the warrant. “We approved the search, yes we did,” says King County Prosecuting Attorney’s office chief of staff Ian Goodhew.
He continues: “You could establish probable cause with tons of evidence or just established probable cause. It is a fairly low standard but it’s one that is required for a search warrant.”
Senior Deputy Prosecutor Ellen O’Neill-Stephens, who recommended the search, is the same person who authorized a search on a medical marijuana advocacy group’s office based on an unsubstantiated tip in 2008.
King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg issued a policy in 2008 saying that his office won’t prosecute people for medical marijuana and it supports law enforcement’s “reasonable efforts to carefully and sensitively investigate these [marijuana] cases.” Was this case investigated “carefully and sensitively”?
“I acknowledge that the amount of force used compared what ended up finding can seem out of proportion,” Goodhew says. But he says uncertainty over the law and whether the person is growing for medical purposes or non-medical purposes “can leave law enforcement guessing.” And that requires an investigation—sometimes involving a raid, he says.
The warrant shows no items were seized—meaning there was nothing illegal on the property.
Read more on the Stranger blog: Seattle Police Raided Apartment for Two Legal Pot Plants Based Only on Smell of Pot and Fan in Window, Search Warrant Shows
On Monday, October 25, 2010, Seattle police stormed the apartment of medical cannabis patient and CDC member Will Laudanski. From the Stranger's SLOG article:
The Seattle Police Department and the mayor's office have repeatedly insisted that marijuana possession, as per city law, is the lowest law enforcement priority. They also adhere, they say, to a state law that makes it legal for authorized patients to use and grow marijuana.
But last night provided evidence that Seattle police are willing to invest tremendous resources in the smallest of pot cases—even cases where the pot is legal—and the mayor’s office will remain silent.
Just before 9:00 p.m., officers at SPD’s East Precinct held a briefing about the complaint of marijuana at a four-unit apartment building in the Leschi neighborhood. One week earlier, officers applied for a search warrant from King County Superior Court, sent an officer with a K9 to sniff at the door, confirmed the scent of marijuana, and were in the process last night of planning a raid. “Once the briefing was completed, officers donned their raid equipment clearly marked ‘Police’ on all sides,” according to a draft incident report filed by police.
A cadre of between six and nine officers ran up the stairs; some carried MP5 submachine guns, others held pistols, and at least one held the battering ram. They pounded on the apartment door and said it was the police.
“I was tying my robe,” says resident Will Laudanski, 50, who had just stepped out of the bathroom. “I said, ‘I am opening the door,’ but before I could get my hand to door, they busted it open and then rushed me. I was trying to comply. Then they pushed me down to the ground and just basically got me position in a corner of the kitchen with my face on the floor.”