Medical marijuana sellers respond to DEA shutdown

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by John Langeler / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @jlangelerKING5

KING5.com

Posted on May 6, 2013 at 8:25 AM

One of eleven medical marijuana sellers in Seattle told to shutdown this week by the Drug Enforcement Administration is speaking out, pleading for state government to defend its own law and suggesting the federal government’s policy will force him to be a “drug dealer”.

“Either we trust our government, or all the people that are willing to do this are just taking a risk and we’re all being stupid,” explained Douglas Gerdes, owner of The Only Natural in Ballard.

Gerdes received a letter from the DEA Tuesday, telling him he was violating federal law for selling an illegal narcotic and operating within 1,000 feet of a school.  He has 30 days to comply.

“I would love for the DEA to come out here and take a look,” Gerdes said, “I’m not doing anything wrong.

According to Washington law, Gerdes is right.  His “collective garden” is a smaller form of a dispensary.  He is growing 20 plants and has just eight ounces on sale, far below what small pot gardens are allowed.  He sells medical marijuana to a small group of patients.

Since federal law supersedes state law, what Gerdes and every other medical marijuana seller is doing is illegal.

DEA spokesperson Jodie Underwood said the letters were “part of an ongoing strategy to combat trafficking”.  She also said the action had “nothing to do with Washington state law”.

But Rep. Roger Goodman (D – Kirkland), a supporter of medical marijuana, called the move another “shot across the bow” of Washington’s pot laws.

He also pointed out there is no state or federal law governing how close a medical marijuana collective can be from a school, even though the DEA letter specifically references the operations being “within 1,000 feet of an educational facility…”

Similar cease-and-desist letters were mailed out to more than 20 pot dispensaries last August.  Most closed and reopened elsewhere.

Gerdes said he is considering what his next move will be.

“Probably, I’ll go underground, break the law and do what it looks like they want me to do,” he said, “Be a drug dealer.”

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