Lawsuit Accuses Santa Ana Mayor Of Taking Bribes From Pot Shops
Shortly after a controversial video of the Santa Ana Police Department conducting a raid on a medical marijuana dispensary surfaced, a lawsuit has been filed that accuses city officials, including the Santa Ana Mayor, of soliciting money from dispensaries in exchange for a license to operate.
Sky High Holistic is suing the City of Santa Ana for the use of excessive force during a raid on their business on May 27. The suit also accuses Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido and other officials of soliciting and receiving money and gifts from other dispensaries in exchange for a license to operate, the L.A. Times reports.
Santa Ana residents voted in favor of Measure BB, which allows only 20 dispensaries to legally operate in the City, in the November 2014 election. Those dispensaries were determined via a lottery held in February. Since then, the Santa Ana Police Department has been shutting down dispensaries that continued to operate illegally. Sky High Holistic did not win a spot in the lottery, and according to Santa Ana Police Chief Carlos Rojas, received a cease-and-desist order on February 26.
The suit alleges that Pulido is affiliated with one of the dispensaries that did win a spot in the lottery, and that an unnamed city employee went around asking dispensaries for $25,000 to support Measure BB prior to the vote in exchange for a guaranteed spot, the OC Register reports.
Pulido has denied the allegations in the lawsuit, calling them "categorically and unequivocally…false," NBC LA reports. He said the lottery was conducted by White, Nelson, Diehl & Evans LLP, an accounting and consulting firm—not the City of Santa Ana. He said he received no gifts, and that Sky High Holistic is filing the suit because they want to remain open illegally.
The video of the raid edited together by Sky High Holistic's lawyer, Matthew Pappas, seems to depict officers exhibiting some questionable behavior. According to Pappas, you can see officers eating edibles and playing darts in the video. You can even hear one officer say she wanted to kick an amputee who was present at the time of the raid "in her f*cking nub." The suit also alleges that officers damaged property and arrested volunteers and members of the marijuana collective for an unnecessary amount of time. The officers' behavior during the raid is under investigation by the Santa Ana Police Department.
Orange County Superior Court Judge David R. Chaffee issued a temporary restraining order against Measure BB earlier this month after medical marijuana collectives that didn't make the lottery filed lawsuits. Some collectives argued that because the city did not limit the number of applications that could be submitted, dispensaries who could afford to pay for multiple submissions were able to gain an advantage, according to OC Weekly. There will be a hearing on Friday to determine if Chaffee will issue a preliminary injunction that will prevent Santa Ana from implementing Measure BB.