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Marijuana dispensary raid leads to corruption lawsuit, misuse of police force by mayor


By Brett Gillin

Owning and operating a medical marijuana dispensary can be a sticky situation in California. That situation becomes even more precarious when you happen to be operating an unlicensed business and the police raid your establishment. But after a raid on a Santa Ana marijuana dispensary, the police who raided the shop may be facing discipline while the city and mayor may undergo a lawsuit alleging unfair practices and police misconduct.

According to Matthew Pappas, an attorney representing Sky High Holistic, a store that was raided last month, Santa Ana mayor Miguel Pulido may be using the Santa Ana police force in connection with an alleged bribery scheme.

Pappas alleges that Santa Ana mayor Miguel Pulido and another city official took $25,000 in bribes from marijuana dispensaries in order to guarantee that their businesses would be granted a license in the city’s lottery system, according to NBC Los Angeles. Then, the police would be called in to shut down any operations that refused to pay these bribes, according to the lawsuit.

“It’s deplorable that city officials and people seeking financial gain would use the police to accomplish their self-serving goals,” Pappas told reporters with ABC7.com.

Mayor Pulido responded to the lawsuit, claiming that the allegations against him are completely false. “There is no money, there is no influencing any process in any manner I think (Pappas) is trying to protect his client and trying to just keep operating illegally. Sometimes the best defense is offense,” Pulido told reporters.

However, the lawsuit alleges something much different. According to OC Weekly, the suit claims that prior to the November 2014 election, someone hired by the city to support the marijuana dispensary license lottery initiative solicited $25,000 from various people who currently ran medical marijuana collectives. In exchange for this money, these establishments were promised “successful inclusion in the Lottery.”

The incident that set off the lawsuit started on May 27, when Santa Ana police raided the aptly named Sky High Holistic, a medical marijuana dispensary, for operating without a business permit, according to KTLA.com. At least eight officers entered the establishment through double doors with their guns drawn and ordered everyone inside to get on the ground with their hands on their head.

After the customers and employees were under control and evacuated from the premises, the officers proceeded to dismantle security cameras and take the store’s digital video recorder, as you can see in this video obtained by the Voice of OC. It is this video that is causing controversy with the police raid and the allegations of police misconduct.

Pappas edited the video before sending it over to Voice of OC. He claims that the surveillance video is evidence of police misconduct, as it clearly shows officer playing darts, making demeaning remarks about a woman in a wheelchair, and even shows an officer apparently eating one of the store’s pot-laced edibles.

After reviewing the edited tape, the Santa Ana Police Department launched an internal investigation into whether or not the officers acted inappropriately during the raid, according to police Cmdr. Chris Revere.

“We’re obviously concerned about the conduct that we saw in the edited video,” Revere told reporters with KTLA.com. “We’re also concerned that the video was heavily edited. We’d like to see the original video in its unedited version.”

Revere also says that he could not conclusively tell if any of the officers actually consumed marijuana-laced edibles by viewing the edited video alone. Santa Ana mayor Miguel Pulido fired back at the accusations of bribery by saying the lawsuits are “categorically and unequivocally false.”

Santa Ana police confirmed to NBC Los Angeles that each of the officers present during the raid are part of the internal investigation. There is no word as to when the investigation will be completed.

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