Pot dis­pen­sary sues Santa Ana po­lice, of­fi­cials

Sky High Holis­tic says the mayor and oth­ers had cor­rupt deal­ings and that rights were vi­o­lated in May raid.

Los Angeles Times - - THE STATE - By Matt Hamil­ton matt.hamil­ton@latimes.com Twit­ter: @Mat­tHjourno

An Or­ange County mar­i­juana dis­pen­sary and its mem­bers have filed a fed­eral law­suit ac­cus­ing Santa Ana po­lice of­fi­cers of ex­ces­sive force dur­ing a raid last month.

The suit, filed this week by the non­profit mar­i­juana col­lec­tive Sky High Holis­tic, fur­ther al­leges that city of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing Mayor Miguel Pulido, have so­licited bribes in ex­change for fa­vor­able treat­ment of dis­pen­saries.

Ac­cord­ing to the com­plaint, po­lice of­fi­cers in the May 26 raid on Sky High Holis­tic — cap­tured on sur­veil­lance video that went vi­ral af­ter its re­lease last week — tram­pled over the con­sti­tu­tional rights of dis­pen­sary vol­un­teers and mem­bers by ar­rest­ing mem­bers for an ex­ces­sive pe­riod of time, caus­ing sig­nif­i­cant prop­erty dam­age and mak­ing deroga­tory com­ments about a dis­abled woman.

The edited video, which was re­leased by Matthew Pap­pas, the same at­tor­ney who filed the law­suit on be­half of the dis­pen­sary, shows Santa Ana po­lice en­ter­ing the dis­pen­sary and later play­ing darts. At one point, an of­fi­cer sur­veys what ap­pears to be an ed­i­ble form of pot, then tosses it into his mouth.

The Santa Ana Po­lice Depart­ment is in­ves­ti­gat­ing the con­duct of the of­fi­cers in the video.

The law­suit places last month’s raid in the con­text of the city’s pas­sage and im­ple­men­ta­tion of a bal­lot ini­tia­tive that im­posed strict reg­u­la­tions on med­i­cal mar­i­juana dis­pen­saries.

Mea­sure BB was one of two ini­tia­tives con­cern­ing med­i­cal mar­i­juana on the Novem­ber bal­lot, and the City Coun­cil-backed ini­tia­tive im­posed tougher reg­u­la­tions than the citizen-pro­posed mea­sure, in­clud­ing lim­ited busi­ness hours and a lottery sys­tem for dis­pen­saries to get one of 20 per­mits to op­er­ate in the city.

Sky High Holis­tic did not re­ceive a per­mit in the lottery.

Ac­cord­ing to the suit, Pulido and other city of­fi­cials re­ceived lav­ish din­ners, money and limousine rides around the time that Mea­sure BB was pre­sented to the coun­cil. An un­named per­son also so­licited $25,000 pay­ments from ex­ist­ing col­lec­tives in ex­change for a guar­an­tee to be in­cluded in the lottery, ac­cord­ing to the com­plaint.

The suit also as­serts that Pulido has a fi­nan­cial stake in an un­named med­i­cal mar­i­juana col­lec­tive that won a per­mit in the lottery.

In an in­ter­view with The Times, Pulido de­nied the al­le­ga­tions in the suit and said the lottery sys­tem was con­ducted in­de­pen­dently of the city through the ac­count­ing and con­sult­ing firm White, Nel­son, Diehl & Evans.

“Let me just state on the record: The al­le­ga­tions are un­equiv­o­cally and cat­e­gor­i­cally false,” Pulido said. “To al­lege there was some inf lu­ence of the lottery and there­fore it’s un­fair is ab­so­lutely false.”

Pulido said the goal of the mea­sure was to pro­tect neigh­bor­hoods and com­mer­cial busi­nesses by con­fin­ing dis­pen­saries to in­dus­trial ar­eas. He de­nied hav­ing a fi­nan­cial stake in a mar­i­juana busi­ness and said he did not re­ceive lav­ish din­ners or other perks for sup­port­ing Mea­sure BB.

“The only limo I’ve been in is at my daugh­ter’s 13th birth­day party,” Pulido said.

He said that Sky High Holis­tic filed the suit in a bid to keep an il­le­gally op­er­at­ing col­lec­tive open.

The city’s Po­lice Depart­ment sent a cease-and-de­sist or­der Feb. 26 to the dis­pen­sary, but it re­mained open, prompt­ing the May raid, Santa Ana Po­lice Chief Car­los Ro­jas said.

No mar­i­juana dis­pen­saries are al­lowed to op­er­ate in Santa Ana af­ter a rul­ing ear­lier this month in a sep­a­rate law­suit in Or­ange County Su­pe­rior Court. In that suit, filed by three prospec­tive dis­pen­sary op­er­a­tors, Judge David Chaf­fee is­sued a tem­po­rary re­strain­ing or­der that bars the city from grant­ing per­mits.

Chaf­fee is sched­uled to hold a hear­ing Fri­day over whether to is­sue a pre­lim­i­nary in­junc­tion pro­hibit­ing the city from mov­ing ahead with the per­mit­ting process.

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