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Twenty-six Montana marijuana dispensaries were raided earlier this week by federal authorities after an investigation into potentially illegal activity.
Montana marijuana law permits medicinal use, meaning that the dispensaries were legally operating under state law.
If distributing for medicinal purposes, then why exactly were the dispensaries shut down?
Medical marijuana is not actually legal. The Supreme Court has said that, though states are free to permit medical marijuana use, the federal government can incarcerate users. It essentially comes down to a state's choice not to enforce federal marijuana laws against some citizens.
The federal government also has this choice. When President Obama came into office, the Department of Justice announced that it would not be raiding medical marijuana dispensaries if they are complying with all other state and federal laws. The minute a dispensary fails to comply with regulations or engages in criminal activity, it would be shut down. This is what happened here.
The Montana marijuana dispensaries are accused of large-scale drug trafficking, reports CNN. After an 8 month investigation, prosecutors found probable cause of conspiracy to manufacture and distribute the drug, as well as to evade financial reporting laws. The state permits dispensaries to grow up to six plants per patient, explains Reuters. It's unknown at this point, but it's possible that the dispensaries were growing well past this limit.
In addition to cell phones, computers and plants, authorities seized $4 million in profits from bank accounts, notes CNN. Unless charges or dropped or the businesses are found to be not guilty, these items (including the money) are likely to be permanently in government hands. The law permits permanent seizure of items used to commit crimes, as well as criminal profits.