Undercover detectives completed an investigation last week of drug trafficking on the Ave, resulting in 24 criminal cases, 18 of which are suspected of trafficking marijuana. The sweep was the culmination of a six-month undercover operation in response to complaints that street dealers were eroding the quality of life in the U-District.
During the course of the operation, undercover personnel sought out and purchased drugs. Buyers were looking for ‘hard’ drugs, like crystal meth, cocaine and heroin. It quickly became apparent that dealers were mostly selling marijuana. Small quantities of cocaine and methamphetamine and a handgun were also purchased.
Turns out that marijuana dealers actually accounted for the majority of the problem. In the spirit of I-502, Seattle Police coordinated with the King County Prosecutor’s Office to forge ahead with an innovative approach to equitably deal with those responsible.
Six of the twenty-four alleged dealers were handed cease-and-desist letters rather than being arrested, a strategy borrowed from the Drug Market Initiative that has the added benefit of not challenging prosecutors in a city that no longer gives a shit about pot use. Those who were arrested for dealing pot were also suspected of dealing other drugs, or had been convicted of prior offenses. Sergeant Whitcomb said over the phone that they continued to pursue marijuana dealers during the investigation, knowing that many of them sell harder drugs like coke or meth to clients they've built a relationship with through dealing pot.
I asked Sergeant Whitcomb if he looks forward to a time when his detectives don't have to trail marijuana dealers for a six-month stretch. He said, "We're looking forward to marijuana being regulated and sold by the state."
After the investigation, the suspects' pot was returned to them, since possession of up to an ounce is perfectly legal.