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Cops Caught Misbehaving by Hidden Camera in MMJ Raid Sue for Privacy Violation

Cops Caught Misbehaving by Hidden Camera in MMJ Raid Sue for Privacy Violation

In May, police in riot gear in Santa Ana, California raided the Sky High Holistic medical marijuana dispensary, claiming that it was operating illegally under California law due to the lack of a permit.

Officers forced customers to the floor, used threatening and menacing language, and — after they thought no cameras were recording them or civilians were present to hear their comments — engaged in theft of property (marijuana-infused edibles) and behavior that was neither professional nor becoming of an officer of the law.

During the raid, officers were secretly recorded on video cameras they failed to locate and disable. This infamous video segment that went viral on social media shows officers destroying recording equipment, allegedly eating edibles they have stolen from the dispensary, and disparaging the dispensary’s manager, Marla James, a 54-year-old wheelchair-bound amputee.

In the surveillance footage when referring to James, an officer asks,

“Did you punch that one-legged old benita?”

Another replies,

“I was about to kick her in her f-ing nub.”

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Steven Downing, a retired Los Angeles Police Department deputy chief, said in response to the raid,

 “Look at what’s happened to law enforcement. You don’t have peace officers in our communities anymore, you have warriors, drug warriors.”

The dispensary in June filed a federal lawsuit against the Santa Ana Police Department claiming misconduct, including $100,000 worth of damage to the dispensary and its inventory and the use of excessive force. In response, the Santa Ana Police Department announced that it would conduct an internal investigation.

Now the officers involved in the May raid have filed their own lawsuit, this one claiming that the secretly-captured and embarrassing video segments were a violation of their privacy. They claim that they “had a reasonable expectation that their conversations were no longer being recorded.”

While activists are pessimistic that the Santa Ana PD’s internal investigation will yield anything surprising, medical marijuana advocates are using the incident and ongoing litigation to shine a spotlight on police bigotry against both medical and recreational cannabis consumers and the businesses that serve them. The lack of professionalism in the officers’ behavior — especially toward the dispensary’s manager, James — is an embarrassment to the police department.

The officers also claim that the viral video was edited in a fashion intended to reflect poorly on them. However, the dispenary’s attorney, Matthew Pappas, has provided police with a full-length, unedited version of the recording.

It remains to be seen if this latest lawsuit in the Sky High Holistic raid drama will gain any traction. If the officers win their suit, the video recordings could not be used against them. Many are cautiously optimistic that the officer’s will lose their case and the video footage will stand against them in an investigation or trial.

Regardless of the outcome of this event, the Santa Ana Police Department — and the officers involved in the Sky High Holistic raid specifically — have received a failing grade from community members, their peers in Los Angeles, and progressive citizens throughout the nation who are frustrated with the drug war and its cost to society.

Four Washington Marijuana Dispensaries Fail Age Compliance Checks

Four Washington Marijuana Dispensaries Fail Age Compliance Checks

For the first time since legalization was enacted, recreational marijuana dispensaries in Washington are experiencing what it is like to be under the watchful eye of the state’s Liquor Control Board (LCB). The LCB is currently conducting compliance checks by sending people under the legal age of 21 into recreational dispensaries to attempt to make a purchase.

Based on the numbers, roughly 82 percent of the recreational stores checked by the LCB did not sell to the underage buyers. This number falls within the same range as the compliance checks that the organization conducts at liquor stores. Between 85 and 92 percent of liquor vendors usually pass the same type of age compliance test.

Only four of the 22 stores were cited for selling to an underage customer. All four shops will be issued a citation, and the names of all employees responsible for the illegal sale have been sent to the county prosecutors. These people could face felony charges.

The four dispensaries were:

  • Mary Mart
  • Emerald Leaves
  • Green City Collective
  • Purple Haze

Just because the person checking identification at the time of the test was having a bad day, however, does not mean that the store usually operates outside of the law. Identification was checked in all cases, but the shop employees, reportedly, either miscalculated birthdays or misread a vertical ID.

The LCB seems to understand that this industry will have growing pains. Brian Smith, a spokesman for the LCB, reported:

“We recognize this is a new industry. Any news of this will spike compliance — that’s how compliance checks work.”

Damien McDivitt, owner of Mary Mart, one of the stores caught selling to an underage person reported:

“We take this very seriously. It is our livelihood and our license on the line.”

For failing the first compliance check, stores could face up to 10-days of suspension or a $2,500 fine. A second compliance fail in the future could result in a temporary suspension of the store’s license to operate, and eventually could lead to a complete revocation of the license.

The publicity behind this round of compliance checks will likely inspire stores to remove the human error element from checking customer identification. McDivitt explained that he plans to switch to using an electronic identification scanner at Mary Mart, in an effort to avoid this all together in the future:

“It scans and verifies. It helps us do math. You run the person’s form of ID through it, it spits out their age and if it is a valid ID or if it is an expired license.”

Although only 22 stores throughout Skagit, Pierce, Kitsap, Snohomish and Cowlitz counties have participated so far, every single one of the 150 shops throughout the Evergreen State will have been tested by June 30. Hopefully the next round of testing will result in any even higher percent of stores operating in compliance with the law.

photo credit: q13fox

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