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Colorado Medical Marijuana Lab Raided By DEA While Owners Attended Senate Hearing On MMJ

COLLEEN SLEVIN   01/28/10 09:16 PM ET   AP

Marijuana

DENVER — A lab that tests medical marijuana for dispensaries and patients said Thursday it was raided by federal drug agents and ordered to turn over patient records.

Full Spectrum Laboratories president Bob Winnicki said Drug Enforcement Administration agents showed up at his facility in Denver on Wednesday when he was at the Capitol for a hearing on proposed medical marijuana regulations.

The lab provided The Associated Press with a copy of a DEA subpoena requesting that it turn over customer and patient records over a six month period through Wednesday.

Winnicki, who had applied for a DEA license to dispense controlled substances, said he wasn't charged with a crime but agents seized about $10,000 worth of marijuana.

DEA special agent Mike Turner said the administration never comments on ongoing investigations and that he couldn't confirm or deny whether there was a raid.

In general, he said agents don't investigate medical marijuana users or suppliers but that they could be probed if their name surfaced during investigations into large drug trafficking operations. He also said the agency investigates facilities that apply for DEA licenses.

"We don't target these operations unless they come up in the normal course of our operations," he said of medical marijuana operations.

While federal crackdowns were once common with medical marijuana operations in California, Matt Brown, executive director of Coloradans for Medical Marijuana Regulation, couldn't recall any such raids in Colorado in recent years.

"They are absolutely not commonplace at all," said Brown, who represents a coalition of medical marijuana dispensaries and patients lobbying for state regulations.

Brian Vicente, executive director of Sensible Colorado, a medical marijuana patients' group, said the DEA has raided some large growing operations but has stayed away from patients and dispensaries in Colorado.

The Obama administration has said it won't target medical marijuana operations in states that allow them as long as they're complying with state laws and aren't fronts for drug traffickers. Colorado is one of 14 states to allow people to use marijuana to treat various medical conditions.

Winnicki said his operation isn't a dispensary but the only lab of its kind in Colorado. He tests marijuana for mold, fungus and pesticides and tests the effectiveness of different strains of marijuana for treating various ailments for dispensaries and patients.

He said he uses scientific instruments and applied for a DEA license back in October to use standards needed to test the marijuana. He said he didn't hear from the DEA until Wednesday.

"I was operating under the assumption that if we're playing by the rules, no problem," he said.

He said the marijuana that was seized included a rare strain that was going to be made into capsules for people with multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease.

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Filed by Ethan Axelrod  |