Medical marijuana lab raided by DEA during introduction of Senator Chris Romer's doctor-patient bill

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Yesterday, Betty Aldworth, director of outreach for Full Spectrum Laboratories, a marijuana testing facility, was at the State Capitol to watch lab co-owner Bob Winniki testify about Senator Chris Romer's just-introduced bill dealing with the relationship between doctors and medical marijuana patients.

But before Winniki could speak, the twosome received an e-mail letting them know members of the Drug Enforcement Administration had stopped by the lab. And by the time they got back to the facility, Aldworth says, "it was full of DEA agents" and other local law-enforcement types, who spent the next several hours seizing all the marijuana testing samples they could find.

In October, the Obama administration issued a memo confirming that its Justice Department wouldn't actively pursue prosecution of medical marijuana businesses in states that had legalized the process. As such, Full Spectrum should have been in the clear -- but in an attempt to preclude any problems, the lab formally applied for analytical lab licensure through the DEA.

"We didn't need to do that, but we thought it was the right thing to do," Aldworth says. "We've worked really hard to make sure that everything we're doing is above board. We've tried to get the best advice from the smartest people about all parts of our business, and we're trying to follow their advice as well as we can. And we're trying to be engaged in the community. That's the reason we were at the Capitol. We think it's important that people know what we're doing and why we're doing it."

Such transparency didn't help with the DEA. During the agents' first visit, they "smelled marijuana, which prompted them to request a warrant," Aldworth says. The document eventually arrived, but Aldworth and company had already given the agents permission to search the premises, under the theory that they had nothing to hide.

Nonetheless, she continues, "they confiscated all of the material on site -- even test tubes filled with extraction fluid that we run on our machines."

Fortunately, Aldworth says, all of the samples sent to the lab had already been tested; it would have eventually been discarded. And agents didn't seize the equipment, which Full Spectrum leases. However, plant material used to set baseline standards for testing, provided to the lab by assorted dispensaries, was taken as well.

Aldworth, who declines to speculate about the timing of the raid, says the agents were "incredibly professional" during the hours-long process "considering what an awful experience it was." But they weren't immediately forthcoming with information about what was going on. It took some time before Full Spectrum personnel were told that they wouldn't be arrested or charged with a crime.

What happens next? Aldworth isn't sure as it applies to the DEA. But as for Full Spectrum, "we're not shutting down," she emphasizes. "We are as determined as we were at the beginning of the day yesterday to keep providing this service to Coloradans who need it. We're not going anywhere. We're still going to be here."

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