Pubdate: Thu, 26 May 2005
Source: Missoula Independent (MT)
Copyright: 2005 Missoula Independent
Author: Jessie McQuillan
Cited: Drug Enforcement Administration ( )
Bookmark: (Paraphernalia)
Bookmark: (Cannabis)


Last Wednesday DEA agents swept through Missoula and four other
Montana cities, stopping in one tobacco-accessory-selling store in
each town and seizing everything from pipes to T-shirts with pot
leaves on them.

Owners of the Vault in Missoula, the Grateful Shed in Bozeman and the
Blue Moon in Great Falls all confirmed the DEA's visit, and two other
warrants were also served statewide.

Blue Moon owner Sue Kerkes wouldn't comment beyond affirming the DEA's
visit, but Vault owner David Sil and Grateful Shed manager Bob
Holstine did confirm that agents confiscated thousands of dollars
worth of merchandise. They said agents served the businesses with
warrants but issued no charges; they simply loaded up the goods and
moved on.

Holstine says six plain-clothes agents in unmarked vehicles seized
more than $7,000 in wares, including more than 500 pipes. But DEA
agents also took his stock of rolling papers, T-shirts with marijuana
emblems, a security camera and business records. Sil's attorney,
Martin Judnich, says they seized nearly all of the Vault's inventory.

Both Sil's and Holstine's lawyers say they were pursuing answers from
the U.S. Attorney's office. Beth Binstock, a spokeswoman in the U.S.
Attorney's office, didn't know anything about the searches and
seizures. DEA spokeswoman Karen Flowers says she knows of the ongoing
investigation but that all inquiries must be directed to the U.S.
Attorney's office. Both Judnich and Chuck Watson, Grateful Shed's
attorney, say their clients are baffled and have long been
operating--the Vault for about a decade and the Grateful Shed for more
than 15 years--with the understanding that they are legal and
aboveboard, and they want to know whether something has suddenly
changed. They are uncertain where they stand because other stores
selling similar wares were apparently not targeted and no charges have
been filed in the stores that were targeted.

The Vault is closed ("There's nothing to sell!" Sil says) and Holstine
says he's reordered some stock. "They told me to go ahead and restock
my shelves but they might be back," he says. "These guys were more
professional thieves than some guy who comes in with a crowbar in the
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