Task force weeds out pot dealers

The business is lucrative. Depending on its potency, one pound of the product can sell for hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Marijuana, including the higher potency “B.C. Bud,” Mexican-grown marijuana and indoor home-grown crops, can be found all over the state, said U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency Seattle branch spokesman Rhett Fonseca.

“It’s very accessible,” Fonseca said. “It’s everywhere here in Washington.”

In 2006, 9,611 pounds of marijuana were federally seized in Washington state, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency Web site. The Seattle area is especially known for the marijuana grown indoors, he said.

The Federal Way Special Investigations Unit detectives see the underbelly of Federal Way, and although the city is not crawling with a population entangled in illegal drug activities, it does have its fair share of drug trafficking, said Chris Norman, Supervising Lieutenant of the Special Investigations Unit.

Each month, the team busts an average of four to six drug operations, Norman said. This number does not include people caught with drugs during traffic stops, said crime analyst Michelle Landon.

Marijuana is not more prevalent in Federal Way than in any other metropolitan city, Norman said.

“It’s a problem in the entire country,” he said.

Undercover agencies

Because of the prevalence of drugs in the state, many task forces have been created to crack down on drug use, manufacturing and distribution in the region.

One of these agencies is the Eastside Narcotics Task Force — comprised of Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond, Mercer Island police departments, King County Sheriff’s Office and the Washington National Guard, said Bellevue Police Department spokesman Greg Grannis.

The task force does not operate often in Federal Way, but it does follow up on tips received through busts completed within the agency’s four participating cities, Grannis said.

For example, if someone arrested in Mercer Island provides ENTF detectives with information leading to a drug dealer in Federal Way, the agency will pursue the lead, Grannis said.

“Drugs are not respectful of city borders, so we have to follow them to where they are,” he said.

Recent drug busts

On Aug. 31, a marijuana drug bust took place in Federal Way.

The Eastside Narcotics Task Force conducted the operation, but has refused to release more information about the bust until charges have been filed. A Federal Way K-9 officer and dog team assisted in the bust, Norman said.

Drug busts conducted by the ENTF are generally not discussed by the ENTF, an undercover agency, until the investigation is finished and the information made public, Grannis said. He requested the address where the operation took place to not be released yet. Printing the address of the grow house at this time could alert criminals who bought marijuana from the house’s occupants to the task force’s efforts — and prove detrimental to the case, he said.

Grannis was unable to say how much marijuana was confiscated at the house or whether all those involved in the operation were arrested.

He did say that because limited resources are available to the task force, it generally puts more effort into large operations. Sometimes significant drug bust investigations take months or years for detectives to complete, he said.

“You have to allocate your resources as best you can,” Grannis said.

In January 2007, King County Sheriff’s Office announced it had busted a large marijuana operation being conducted in Puyallup, Renton and Federal Way. Harvested marijuana and hundreds of plants — totaling $5 million — were found at the homes in the three cities, according to a Jan. 31 Federal Way Mirror article.

One Federal Way home was included in the bust. Here, in the 31200 block of 2nd Avenue S.W., police confiscated nearly 400 marijuana plants and $35,000, according to the article.

Authorities were made aware of the operation months before the bust took place, according to the same article.

In 2005, King County authorities made 23 arrests at 19 separate addresses and discovered more than 12,000 marijuana plants in a series of drug busts spanning five months, according to a Dec. 17, 2005, Seattle Times article titled “Busts yield thousands of pot plants.” Arrests were made in connection with this case at seven different addresses in Federal Way, according to the article.

Contact Jacinda Howard: or (253) 925-5565.

Fast facts:

Marijuana is the most commonly used illegal drug in the United States, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency Web site,

The use of marijuana has decreased in recent years, but the potency of the amount being illegally circulated is increasing, according to the DEA’s Web site.

Also on the rise is the number of Asian drug trafficking organizations, many of which specialize in distributing potent “B.C. Bud” and home-grown marijuana, according to the Web site.

Locally, high-potency marijuana, especially “B.C. Bud,” sells for approximately $3,500 a pound, King County Sheriff’s Department spokesman John Urquart said in a Dec. 17, 2005, Seattle Times article titled “Busts Yield Thousand of Pot Plants.”

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