Investigators shut down Tigard marijuana dispensary following raid

by: SUBMITTED - Five firearms and several pounds of marijuana were found during a raid of a home and Tigard medical marijuana dispensary last week. The raid came just six weeks before voters are to decide on whether to legalize marijuana. Today, the office space of The Human Collective marijuana dispensary on Pacific Highway is empty.

The signs have been removed and dark shades cover the windows.

But last Thursday, the two-year-old nonprofit was the site of a raid by Washington County’s drug task force, which recovered about 40 pounds of marijuana buds from the store.

Investigators also searched an empty, adjacent office space and neighboring Grow American Garden Supply shop, as well as the Tigard home of two of The Human Collective’s employees a few blocks away.

No arrests were made in the raids, but investigators seized 21 large marijuana plants, more than 200 smaller plants at the residence, five firearms and more than $23,000 in cash.

The storefront, located at 11509 S.W. Pacific Highway near Interstate 5, was known in the area as a place for medical marijuana cardholders to get access to marijuana.

The group prided itself on being a place that legally supplied medical marijuana cardholders with the drug since it opened its operation in 2010.

The organization’s founder Sarah Bennett told The Times shortly after THC opened that the group was a way for medical marijuana cardholders without access to the drug to still have access to their medicine.

“(Medical marijuana cardholders) have needs that are immediate,” Bennett said at the time. “You can go and get your Advil or your aspirin or your other prescription drugs in a timely manner because you’re in pain and you’re suffering, and that’s what we try to offer here.”

Medical marijuana dispensaries are illegal in Oregon, but Bennett said because the collective did not charge for the marijuana, it was operating legally.

Nearly $2 million collected

by: SUBMITTED - Washington County Sheriff's deputies discovered 21 large marijuana plants growing in the backyard of Sarah Bennet during a raid of her home, last Thursday. By law, medical marijuana cardholders are not allowed to pay for the illicit plant, but they are allowed to reimburse growers for the costs of production, electricity, supplies, etc.

Washington County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Sgt. Bob Ray said the Tigard company inflated the prices of the marijuana to make more than $1.7 million in sales during the past year.

“The medical marijuana program says that you can charge a grower for the exact costs it costs to grow that marijuana, but they were selling it at retail prices at the store — so many times over what it costs to actually grow the marijuana,” Ray said. “It was pennies on the dollar of what it costs to grow marijuana for someone.”

Members of the collective could walk in and purchase marijuana if customers put money into a “MedExpress” account, which could be transferred later to the collective to reimburse growers for the cannabis.

Furthermore, Ray said, the company’s business model was illegal.

“That’s not the way that it works,” he said. “You have to be a grower for that particular medical marijuana cardholder.

“You can’t have product in a store for people to come in and look through. You can’t say, ‘I’m a medical marijuana cardholder,’ and sell it to me. That’s a retail operation.”

Growers must go through the state’s medical marijuana program if they are going to grow for someone else, Ray said. “Instead, they did $1.7 million in 12 months.”

Advocates for Measure 80

The raids came less than six weeks before Oregonians will vote on Ballot Measure 80, a statewide ballot measure which would legalize and tax the sale of marijuana.

Oregon is one of three Western states hoping to legalize the drug this November.

Officials at The Human Collective were advocates for Measure 80, and told The Times in 2010 that they welcomed government regulation of the medical marijuana industry.

If voters approve Measure 80 on Nov. 6, the sale of marijuana would be legal through state-licensed stores, similar to Oregon’s liquor stores, and would allow anyone to purchase and consume the plant.

The measure would effectively make marijuana use legal in Oregon, but the growth and sale of marijuana would be controlled — and taxed — by the state.

The state would create a commission to license people to grow marijuana, which would then be sold in state-run stores. These stores would be able to sell the drug to pharmacies and medical research facilities.

If the law were in effect, would The Human Collective have been raided last week? Probably, Ray said.

“The stores would be state-run and operated. You couldn’t just have a retail store like this one,” he said.

The state’s law would have no effect on the national law, which classifies marijuana and Oregon’s medical marijuana program as illegal.

The Human Collective faced no inspection or regulation from state or local authorities during its two years in operation.

It’s unclear how many dispensaries there are in Oregon, as no state agency is required to keep track.

However, The Human Collective has been on the sheriff’s office radar.

“It was the only dispensary in Washington County. Now there are no dispensaries in Washington County,” Ray said.

The case will go before a grand jury, which will decide if an arrest should be made in the case, he added.

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