SEATTLE -- After federal agents raided about a dozen medical marijuana dispensaries around the Puget Sound area Tuesday, some businesses are wondering if they are next.
Dispensaries in King, Pierce and Thurston counties were shut down, suspected of breaking Washington's medical marijuana laws, said U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan. Authorities report multiple people were arrested, including 17 arrests in Thurston County.
The Drug Enforcement Agency even raided a few dispensaries in Seattle, which surprised some because the city has a hands-off approach to the shops and passed legislation to regulate them like any other business.
Outside of Seattle Cross, which was raided around 11 a.m., according to a federal search warrant, one man was disappointed to see the business was closed. He just received authorization papers from his doctor Tuesday afternoon and drove from Sammamish to Seattle to pick up medical marijuana for the first time. He needs the drug for pain in his feet.
"I'm a little shocked," the man said.
Investigators said the businesses were targeted for everything from possessing too much marijuana to selling it to people without a medical marijuana card.
"We will not prosecute truly ill people or their doctors who determine that marijuana is an appropriate medical treatment," Durkan said in a statement. "However, state laws of compassion were never intended to protect brash criminal conduct that masquerades as medical treatment."
But medical marijuana proponents feel Tuesday's raids are evidence the state's laws are too confusing.
"We're all just trying to comply with the laws, but we need clear laws," said Jason Semer, who runs THCList.com, an online resource guide for medical marijuana patients.
Semer also recently started the Academy of Cannabis Culture and Technology -- or ACCTech -- which teaches a variety of classes, including cannabis cooking and law seminars.
"We just want a clear definition of what the laws are," he said.
State representative Roger Goodman, who is running for Congress, wants a state system for licensing medical marijuana dispensaries, a plan that was vetoed by Gov. Chris Gregoire earlier this year. Gregoire was concerned the plan would require state workers to violate federal law.
"If we had a state regulatory system that was uniform, where we knew what the rules were, then the Feds would back off," Goodman said.
SkyKING flew over three businesses that were raided Tuesday, including the G.A.M.E. Lounge in White Center, and The Herbal Connection and Evergreen Medicinal, both in Puyallup.
In Thurston County alone, 17 suspects were arrested in raids at five businesses: The Healing Center, Olympia Patient Resource Center, Lacey Cross, Cannabis Outreach Services and Triple D's. The suspects range in age from 18 to 50-years-old. Each was booked for possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver.
Tacoma Police confirmed three dispensaries were raided in that city.
Dispensaries in Graham, Parkland, and Spanaway were also raided, according to Pierce County Sheriff spokesperson Detective Ed Troyer.
Arrest totals from King and Pierce counties have not been made available yet.
Drug Enforcement Administration agents from the Seattle office issued a statement regarding the raids:
"The DEA will exercise its investigative authority to pursue criminal actions for any violation of federal law, when warranted. This includes investigating organizations or individuals that grow, manufacture or distribute any illegal drug to include marijuana, and those who rent or maintain a property to facilitate drug trafficking."
Whether a specific tip or information launched the highly orchestrated raids is not clear yet.