Cannabis Action Coalition Exposes HIDTA Conflict With WA State Cannabis Laws


Research by John Worthington
Edited by John Novak


The Cannabis Action Coalition, (“CAC”), is a statewide organization with members that are dedicated to the preservation and defense of Washington State cannabis laws. It has particular interest and expertise in the areas of medical and recreational marijuana law, and has had extensive involvement in the development of those laws via activism and thru public testimony to the Washington State legislature.

The CAC’s interest in this matter is further detailed in the statement of interest contained in its Motion for Leave to File Amicus Curiae Brief filed  herewith, which is hereby incorporated by reference.

The Cannabis Action Coalition has a statewide concern regarding the HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area) grants that are in dispute in this case. These grants contain federal policies which conflict with Washington State laws. The grants, officially known as High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area grants, were created in response to state medical marijuana laws in 1997.The HIDTA grants were adopted by multiple Washington State Multi –Jurisdictional drug task forces operating statewide that same year. The federal policy goals in the HIDTA grant contracts not only conflict with Washington state medical and recreational marijuana statutes, but the Washington State search and seizure laws as well.

The CAC is committed to stopping these federal HIDTA grant contracts from interfering with Washington State marijuana and seizure forfeiture laws, before any further damage is done.

The CAC has taken particular notice of a medical marijuana policy announced by a Washington State Multi-Jurisdictional drug task force that declares it will seize medical marijuana for the DEA. This policy has been shown to the courts as an exhibit is this case, and can only be considered a threat to the rights
of all medical and recreational marijuana users alike. The Multi-Jurisdictional drug task force Tahoma Narcotics Enforcement Team (TNET), a HIDTA grant recipient, announced this policy in a February 14, 2007 Executive board session.

The CAC has been apprised of a special meeting in 1996 in which the creation of these HIDTA grants were contrived, in order to specifically bypass state medical marijuana laws. The paper trail of the exhibits highlighting the HIDTA grants is quite clear and has been undisputed by the defendants in this action.

Also of major concern to the CAC are the defendant’s arguments in this case that claim unless a citizen is charged with a crime under RCW 69.50, the citizen cannot exercise their rights under RCW 69.51A, or RCW 69.50.505.[Footnote]

The CAC is adamantly opposed to the policies embodied in the HIDTA grant and the arguments made by the defendants in this case. The CAC respectfully request the Washington State Court of Appeals for Division I, hold that the HIDTA grant policies violates Washington State and constitutional rights of the people in Washington State.

On January 12, 2007, WEST NET (West Sound Narcotics Enforcement Team) colleagues, executed the search warrant on the residence of Steve Sarich’s and located nearly one thousand growing marijuana plants, and allegedly contacted the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”) to assist in the investigation.

WEST NET Detective Roy Alloway was later able to get a search warrant for Appellant John Worthington’s residence and allegedly sent the DEA to conduct a knock and talk at Worthington residence. The DEA or TNET, and WEST NET ultimately confiscated Worthington’s 6 medical marijuana plants and a grow light.
During the raid Alloway stated Worthington would not be charged and that he was leaving the plants. Fred Bjornberg of TNET stepped forward, said he was a DEA agent and claimed to be seizing the plants.
The Appellant Worthington alleged Alloway intentionally misrepresented the facts to the Judge in order to get a search warrant, and alleged he was the victim of a federal HIDTA grant policy to seize medical marijuana for the DEA.

In December 2009, Worthington filed a lawsuit challenging the HIDTA grants and the seizure and loss of his property. This suit was dismissed by a federal court Judge for not meeting constitutional jurisdictional requirements.

In 2010 and 2011, Worthington received public disclosure documents from Kitsap County and the City of Bonney Lake showing that his property was seized by WEST NET not Bjornberg, the DEA or TNET.
In January of 2012, Worthington filed a new complaint alleging that WEST NET and Roy Alloway actually seized his property instead of Fred Bjornberg of the DEA/TNET. Worthington also alleges fraud, and violations of Washington State laws and constitutional rights On April 13, 2012 the King County Superior court heard cross motions for summary judgment by both parties. On June 22, 2012, the trial court granted the defendants motion for summary judgment for collateral estoppel, res judicata, and statute of limitations.

Worthington appealed to the Washington State Court of Appeals, and after both parties submitted briefs, a no oral argument hearing was scheduled for September 18, 2013. The CAC submits this Amicus Curiae Brief in support of Appellant Worthington, and request oral argument.

The fundamental objective of statutory construction of the seizure and forfeiture statute, RCW 69.50.505, is to ascertain and carry out the intent of the Legislature. (See Key Bank of Puget Sound v. City of Everett, 67 Wash.App. 914, 917, 841 P.2d 800 (1992) (construing former RCW 69.50.505), review denied.  121 Wash.2d 1025, 854 P.2d 1085 (1993) (internal citations omitted).

In Bruett v. Real Property Known as 18328 11th Ave. N.E., 93 Wash.App. 290, 968 P.2d 913 (1998). the court held that the seizing agency must strictly comply with the service of process requirements of the  forfeiture statute.

Recognizing that forfeitures are not favored, the court reversed the order of forfeiture because the law enforcement agency that seized the real property failed to serve notice of the seizure on the on owners of the property as the statute requires. Id. at 294-95, 968 P.2d 913.

In this case the defendants have acknowledged that a 15 day written notice to seize property was never filed by the seizing agency. Reading RCW 69.50.505(3) through (5) together, it is clear that the legislature intended that notice and an opportunity to be heard are bedrock principles underlying this statute. The  defendants have admitted they have violated those principles in determining for itself whether forfeiture is allowed. The courts in Washington State have ruled that The seizing agency is not to determine for itself whether forfeiture is allowed. (See Espinoza v. City of Everett, 87 Wash.App. at 867, 943 P.2d 387)


For the reasons set forth herein, the CAC as amicus curiae respectfully requests that this Court hold, that the HIDTA Grant policies applied to the Appellant Worthington in this case, violate the laws and constitution of Washington State. The CAC respectfully advocates a remand back to the trial court to brief further on the issues of these HIDTA grants.

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