Brionne Corbray is shown sifting through the receipts of items confiscated by the DEA from his three medical marijuana collectives (one in White Center and another in West Seattle), his home and vehicle. Inset top: The Game Collective Lounge is open one day after the raid. Inset bottom: Corbray and GAME co-owner Terry Tackett
GAME Collective owner frustrated by DEA raid, denies any laws were broken
Marijuana lounge was slated to close previously; Moving to Elliott Ave in January
The GAME Collective medical marijuana group, with two local outlets in White Center and West Seattle, was raided by the DEA on Nov. 15 for a search warrant stating probable cause of unlawful distribution of marijuana outside “the spirit of existing state law.”
Collective owner Brionne Corbray, in an exclusive interview with the West Seattle Herald, expressed his outrage with the sweep, stating his employees and he were mistreated during the West Seattle raid stating emphatically, “We were not doing anything outside of state law. If we had really done something wrong we would be in jail.”
DEA agents raided three GAME (Greenpiece Alternative Medicine and Education) Collective dispensaries, Corbray’s home and several vehicles owned by Corbray and his employees. Marijuana, cash, business receipts and bills, his vehicle and over 2000 patient records were seized, Corbray said.
No arrests were made as the search warrant is generally for collecting evidence, with potential charges to come later.
Corbray said he was at the West Seattle location along with three employees when DEA agents came to the door with assault rifles. He alleges racial epithets were used by agents as three of the four employees, including Corbray, are African-American.
“One little bit is too much,” Corbray said of the alleged remarks. “There was enough to where we shut down and after that I quit listening to them. They were trying to irritate us and that’s why they unhooked everything so nothing could be recorded," asserting that in-house surveillance equipment was disconnected by the agents.
Corbray said agents asked where the “armed guard” was and he told them there wasn’t one. In a Herald interview after the West Seattle location was robbed on July 28 Corbray stated he planned to staff his establishment with full-time security guards, and possibly have them armed. He says he later decided against security carrying firearms.
As for why the GAME Collective made the short-list of dispensaries by the DEA, co-owner Terry Hackett said “We were targeted because we are black. Look at the medical marijuana history in Seattle – it is a white man’s game.”
“They came in expecting there to be gold all over us, guns everywhere … they thought they were coming in for some gang-banging gangsters with 50 pounds,” Corbray added.
He said roughly one pound of marijuana was seized from the West Seattle location, with similar amounts seized from his home and the White Center and North Seattle dispensaries.
“We keep records, we didn’t have 10 pounds sitting in there, we didn’t have $20,000 in cash - we didn’t have any of that.”
Into the affidavit
The search warrant affidavit released on Nov. 16 includes some information that does not seem directly linked to the charges, but that information is shared to define the background research done by DEA agents.
Agents began surveillance of GAME’s West Seattle location on the afternoon of July 28, making note of vehicles owned by employees and the nature of people visiting the collective.
“Most of the individuals I observed appeared to be in their twenties to mid-thirties in age,” the agent wrote. “I did not observe anyone that required a wheelchair, crutches, or a walker enter the G.A.M.E. Collective. I know from personal experience, as well as observations of patients suffering from illnesses – such as certain kinds of cancer, AIDS, or Multiple Sclerosis – the physical toll such illnesses take on a person’s body as well as the side effects of their treatment.” The agent wrote he did not see patients exhibiting “hair loss, weight loss, lack of energy, difficulty in the ability to walk or to move limbs, or labored breathing …I did not observe anyone who entered or exited The G.A.M.E Collective exhibiting those signs.”
“If (patients) have a card, it doesn’t matter to us,” Corbray said in response. “If they have authorization, they have authorization. What they look like, what their problems are, that is not our place.”
A damning letter
According to the search warrant, on August 15 the DEA received a letter from an anonymous source claiming the GAME Collective was operating “as a collection point for Oregon and California grown marijuana and ships the marijuana to the Black Disciple Gang in Chicago, Ill.” The letter also said the GAME Collective was planning to “establish a large warehouse sized indoor marijuana grow location in Mount Vernon, Washington.”
“That is an out-and-out lie,” Corbray responded to the charges of being a collection point for out-of-state marijuana and selling to the Black Disciple Gang. Regarding the warehouse in Mt. Vernon, Corbray said he was approached by two men with the proposal to buy the property and joined them to check it out (as a location to grow marijuana as a collective), but decided against the purchase because the space was too large and the price was suspiciously low ($1200 a month).
“Bottom line, I didn’t trust them,” he said.
Undercover buys begin
Operating separately but sharing information, the search warrant details undercover buys from both the ATF (as part of Operation Center of Attention) and the DEA from the White Center collective over the course of several months. Buys were also done at the West and North Seattle locations.
According to the affidavit, most of the buys followed a similar pattern where the undercover agent or informant presented GAME Collective employees with their medical marijuana authorization and proceeded to purchase varying amounts of marijuana – generally purchasing in the range of $100 to $300. The largest purchase mentioned was three ounces of marijuana, ten grams of hashish and two THC-laden lollipops from the West Seattle location on Sept. 27. As background, medical marijuana patients in Washington are allowed to have a 60-day supply (24 ounces) of marijuana in their possession at any given time.
A September 16 undercover purchase stood out in the warrant. The affidavit states an undercover agent, along with an informant, entered the White Center collective with the goal of bartering a trade of pipes and smoking devices (in law enforcement’s possession) for marijuana. According to the affidavit, a GAME Collective employee joined the undercover officer in a trip to his vehicle where the pipes were located. “(The agent) showed the pipes and smoking devices he had stored in the vehicle … to (the employee). (The agent) told (the employee) that he intended to sell the marijuana after receiving it for the pipes.” The employee paid the agent $100 for the pipes and the agent turned around and gave the $100 back for 10 grams of marijuana, according to the affidavit.
“They are trying to set us up to do illegal deals,” Corbray said in response to the controlled buys. When asked whether he remembers the incident, the GAME employee (who was named in the affidavit but will not be named here as he hasn’t been charged) told the Herald he remembered the transaction. When asked whether he remembered the agent telling him the plan to resell the marijuana, the employee said, “No.”
An AP story on the raids mentions a much larger controlled buy at the Seattle Cannabis Co-op where an employee “sold 5 pounds of marijuana to a confidential informant for $11,000 in a monitored transaction. When told that the informant wanted to sell the drugs in the Midwest, the co-op’s employee recommended some lousy weed on the grounds that tokers wouldn’t know the difference.”
Corbray said that is the difference between his collective and some of the others raided on Tuesday.
“If it was about the money (he mentions the above undercover buy) … now that was about the money. I’ve had people come in, and they could have been undercover, asking me if I would sell them a pound or two and I said, ‘No, dude, we are not about that.’”
“It was about helping patients, but also about helping my friends (that he employs) survive in this economy,” Corbray said, claiming he did not get into medical marijuana to get rich.
Additional sections from the affidavit go into the personal finances of Corbray and his family, but the document does not directly link that information with the illegal distribution of marijuana.
The affidavit ends with the statement: “As of today’s date (Nov. 14), the G.A.M.E. Collective branches … continue to operate as medical marijuana dispensaries possessing, distributing, and selling marijuana in violation of Title 21, United States Code 841(a)(1).”
Moving forward – a relocation of the White Center collective and plans to continue operation
Corbray said due to problems with the building in White Center (no heat, a kitchen with gas leaks and a landlord unwilling to fix the issues) he will be relocating the GAME Collective lounge to the Queen Anne neighborhood in January.
He said the White Center location will likely stay open until the end of the month.
Corbray said the move is unrelated to the DEA raid of his and several other medical marijuana facilities in the Puget Sound area on Tuesday, Nov. 15. He said he was not issued an order to stop operation and will stay open as a medical marijuana collective in White Center (in addition to his other locations in West and North Seattle).
“There is no heat and it is a dead building,” Corbray said. “We’ve lost too much business in there because it is too cold.”
With the landlord unable to make the repairs in a timely fashion, Corbray said the decision was made to find a new location.