Mar 14, 2011 6:18 PM by KBZK Media Center with Dan Boyce and Jessica Hoppe reporting
A raid is underway at a Belgrade medical marijuana shop where marijuana plants and equipment are being loaded into a U-Haul.
The owner of Montana Cannabis Ministry, Randy Leibenguth, said he wasn't at the store when federal officers arrived earlier today and placed an employee in handcuffs. The owner told KBZK reporter Dan Boyce that law enforcement officials are taking all of his plants and equipment and not letting him inside the building until they are finished. The owner predicted that federal officials seized between $50,000 and $100,000 worth of marijuana plants and equipment Monday.
The owner of MCM said he is completely following state law. He said he has invested more than $200,000 into the business over the last couple of years.
"Pretty much all the dispensaries I know of were above board, pay taxes. So we're actually paying for the federal government to come in and raid us," Leibenguth said.
MCM in Belgrade is one of several medical marijuana businesses being raided across the state today.
Drug Enforcement Administration officials were also at Big Sky Patient Care in Belgrade Monday where a sign hanging on the door informed patients that the store was closed due to circumstances beyond the business' control.
DEA agents at Big Sky Patient Care said they could not comment on the raids and directed questions to Mike Turner with the DEA. Turner however said he could not comment on the raids and referred questions to assistant prosecutor Victoria Francis with the U.S. Attorney's Office in Montana. Francis said Monday that search warrants are being executed but would not comment on where they were taking place or how many businesses were involved. Francis said the warrants are sealed. She said a news release should be released either today or tomorrow.
Meanwhile, law enforcement officials were at the scene of a medical marijuana growing operation west of Helena on Highway 12 early Monday afternoon.
There are reports that similar growing operations in other parts of Montana are also being investigated by authorities. Montana's News Station has heard of similar investigations taking place in Missoula and the Columbia Falls.
Authorities in Missoula converged on Montana Cannabis on Brooks Street just after noon. The Missoula Police Department, Missoula County Sheriff's Department and Health Industry Distributors Association (HIDA) were all involved. Our reporter was told that they were assisting the DEA with a search.
Meanwhile, a medical marijuana shop has been searched in Columbia Falls. Our reporter at the scene reports that Good Medicine Providers off of U.S. Highway 2 was being searched on Monday afternoon.
We will bring you more information as this story develops.