By Oliver Lazenby
Washington state residents may have voted to legalize marijuana, but in Blaine their tax dollars are still going toward stemming the plant’s black market.
Officers from three agencies – Blaine police department, Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team, and Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) enforcement officers – brought an armored car to serve a search warrant on the 500 block of G Street in Blaine at about 2 p.m. on Wednesday, May 24.
Residents at the house were cooperative while a search revealed four more plants growing than residents were legally allowed to have, three times more than the legal limit of usable marijuana, and evidence that residents may have planned to sell marijuana.
None of the eight residents at the house were arrested and the investigation is ongoing, said captain Tom Dixon with the LCB’s enforcement division.
At least one resident was a medical marijuana patient and could grow up to six plants, but officers found 10 plants in a grow room.
“They were over their prescribed amount by four plants, which may not sound like a lot, but in addition to that they were significantly over the amount of usable marijuana allowed,” Dixon said.
They would have been allowed to have six ounces of usable marijuana, Dixon said. That amount is worth roughly $1,360 in a legal marijuana shop, according to an LCB chart with the current average retail store price.
The search also revealed butane canisters and a pressure cooker type device called an extractor – items used for producing concentrated marijuana products. The search also turned up “other things related to controlled substances,” that Dixon wouldn’t discuss.
“There was some evidence of possible sales and what appeared to be an order to ship some usable marijuana out of state,” Dixon said.
Busts on illegal grow operations are rare. Dixon thought last week’s in Blaine may have been the third his agency conducted this year. On February 23, the agency was involved in seizing about 520 marijuana plants from a Tacoma residence, and on April 14, they seized 438 plants from another Tacoma residence, according to LCB press releases.
The SWAT team and armored car attracted a lot of attention while parked outside the police station earlier in the day.
“They look dramatic,” Blaine police chief Mike Haslip said. “I would be among the people wondering what is happening if I saw that armored car on my street.”
The decision to bring the SWAT team and armored car was based on Blaine Police protocol, Haslip said. Officers performed a threat assessment that factored in criminal histories of the suspects, the call history of the property and the geography of the surrounding area.
The threat assessment registered in the middle of three categories; where a special response team is recommended, but not strongly.
“Anytime you get into that gray area, it’s always better to have the resources and not need them,” Haslip said. “The officers did everything they could to make sure that it would go calmly and sensibly and peaceably and that is, in the end, what happened.”
Blaine police started investigating the residence “several weeks” ago, Haslip said. They brought information to the liquor and cannabis board, which obtained the search warrant.