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Feds Raid WA Medical Pot Dispensaries: Could More Regulation Save the Coming Legal Market?

A strong, state-based regulatory system appears key to avoiding the crackdown.

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"The problem is that that is an environment where people who are willing to break rules are at a competitive advantage," said Holcomb. "It also creates uncertainty within the communities." 

Like Reiman, Holcomb said, "What we frequently see is that law enforcement responds to community complaints," particularly businesses pushing the envelope and "creating a sense of lawlessness," which incites nervousness in neighbors who "invite systemic raids to tamp down on the industry."

Holcomb said Washington's legalization initiative was very influenced by this observation. "We knew it would be important to not only have very clear regulations, but uniform throughout the state," That way, she says, marijuana distributors can easily "understand standards for business to be conducted."

A spokesperson for the Western Washington US Attorney's Office told AlterNet their policy in regards to recreational legalization will be determined by the Department of Justice, while their medical marijuana priorities -- which the office claims to have established itself -- is to target businesses that appear to be acting as large-scale, illegal drug traffickers. 

It is too early to say for sure whether the dispensaries busted were disregarding state law, but marijuana legalization advocates do not appear to be sweating its implications for more sweeping legalization just yet. 

Kristen Gwynne is an associate editor and drug policy reporter at AlterNet.  Follow her on Twitter: @KristenGwynne

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