Mar 15, 2011 4:54 PM by KBZK Media Center
One day after federal authorities raided numerous medical marijuana businesses across the state, the U.S. Attorney's Office has released information about the incidents.
A total of 26 criminal search warrants were executed Monday at businesses in Belgrade, Big Sky, Billings, Bozeman, Columbia Falls, Dillon, Great Falls, Helena, Kalispell, Miles City, Missoula, Olney and Whitefish, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office. The raids came after an 18-month multi-agency investigation into the "drug trafficking activities of criminal enterprises operating throughout the State of Montana," the release states. Seizure warrants for financial institutions in Bozeman, Helena and Kalispell totaling up to $4 million were also executed.
"Twenty-six search warrants were carried out yesterday where there is probable cause that the premises were involved in illegal and large-scale trafficking of marijuana. When criminal networks violate federal laws those involved will be prosecuted," United States Attorney Michael Cotter said in the release.
The news release goes on to say that people with illnesses who are in compliance with state law are not the focus of the investigation.
According to the information, to date, no federal criminal charges, indictments, informations or complaints have been filed against any of the people named in the search warrants, civil seizure warrants and related documents.
The businesses that were targeted were believed to be in violation of the Controlled Substances Act, the release states.
"Specifically, it is alleged in the search warrants, civil seizure warrants and related documents that the premises or property identified were involved in some or all of the following violations of federal law: manufacture of marijuana and possession with intent to distribute marijuana, and distribution of marijuana in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841, conspiracy to commit the offenses of manufacture of marijuana, possession with intent to distribute marijuana and distribution of marijuana in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846, structuring or assisting in structuring any transaction to evade currency reporting requirements or causing or attempting to cause a domestic financial institution to fail to file Currency Transaction Reports in violation of 31 U.S.C. §§ 5324(a)(1) and (3)," the release states.
The release goes on to state that marijuana is considered a Schedule 1 substance of the Controlled Substance Act and that, under federal law, growing, distributing and possessing marijuana is in violation of that act.
"Because of the danger posed by Schedule I substances, the Department of Justice continues to focus its enforcement and investigative efforts in targeting large-scale drug organizations that cultivate, manufacture, distribute, or sell marijuana," the release states.
Agencies involved in the investigation include the Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations, the Internal Revenue Service, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Environmental Protection Agency-Criminal Investigation Division, U.S. Customs and Border Protection-Border Patrol, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. These federal agencies were assisted by the Montana Division of Criminal Investigations, and local High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area task forces, the Northwest Drug Task Force, the Kalispell Police Department, the Flathead County Sheriff's Office, the Missoula Police Department, the Missoula County Sheriff's Office, the Missoula High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Task Force, the Great Falls Police Department, the Cascade County Sheriff's Office, the Central Montana Drug Task Force, the Billings Police Department, the Yellowstone County Sheriff's Office, the Eastern Montana High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Task Force, the Dillon Police Department, the Beaverhead County Sheriff's Office, the Park County Sheriff's Office, the Bozeman Police Department, the Gallatin County Sheriff's Office, the Missouri River Drug Task Force, the Helena Police Department, the Lewis & Clark Sheriff's Office, and the Eastern Montana Drug Task Force - Miles City.