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Originally published May 27, 2009 at 12:00 AM | Page modified May 27, 2009 at 11:34 AM

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Marijuana grower loses to robbers, then police

A Wallingford resident who operates a medical-marijuana-growing site for himself and other ill patients saw his crop of drugs raided twice on Tuesday — once by police.

Seattle Times staff reporters

A Wallingford resident who operates a medical-marijuana-growing site for himself and other ill patients saw his crop of drugs raided twice Tuesday — once by police.

Mark Spohn, 48, called police after four men dressed like FBI agents burst into his home around 11 a.m., according to his attorney Douglas Hiatt.

During the robbery, Spohn and a group of assistants from a medical-marijuana education group were ordered to the floor at gunpoint, Hiatt said.

When Seattle police arrived at the home in the 3700 block of Wallingford Avenue North and found Spohn had more than the 15 marijuana plants allowed under state Department of Health guidelines, much of the grow was disassembled.

The state sets the supply limit for medical marijuana at 24 ounces of usable marijuana plus 15 plants. Spohn had more than 100 plants, Hiatt said.

Police removed all but 15 of them.

Hiatt, who has many medical-marijuana clients, maintains he and former Seattle police Chief Gil Kerlikowske had an agreement that the 15-plant rule was not going to be implemented.

He said the agreement was known at the King County Prosecutor's Office, the King County Sheriff's Office, the American Civil Liberties Union and law-enforcement agencies around the region.

Hiatt said he believes that when Kerlikowske left the department in late April to head the federal Office of National Drug Control Policy, the agreement was not put into place by Interim Chief John Diaz.

Seattle police Sgt. Sean Whitcomb said the department has not changed its policy and that officers Tuesday were acting on recommendations from the Prosecutor's Office.

Whitcomb said Spohn wasn't arrested and that the case has been forwarded to the Prosecutor's Office for review.

In an interview late last year, County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg told The Seattle Times his office looks upon medical-marijuana cases "with a very lenient eye."

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Ian Goodhew, deputy chief of staff at the office, said Tuesday that Spohn's case will be reviewed to determine whether he should be warned or charged criminally.

Goodhew said if his office finds that a registered medical-marijuana patient has more than 15 plants, he or she will be issued a warning. If a patient is caught a second time, he or she will be prosecuted.

"The medical-marijuana statute does not allow for a group-grow situation," Goodhew said. "Our [state] guidelines say one person can be a certified medical-marijuana provider and provide to one patient."

Hiatt said he plans to set up meetings with local law enforcement, Satterberg's office and others to discuss what happened Tuesday.

In the meantime, he is warning medical-marijuana users to keep their activities low key.

Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or jensullivan@seattletimes.com

Nancy Bartley: 206-464-8522 or nbartley@seattletimes.com

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Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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