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 night.”